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Poetry

Where is the Garden of Eden?
Can I see it from the hotel, east-facing
room on the eighteenth floor?
Does the 18 bus stop there?
My children, I think,
they must have grown up
in the Garden of Eden while I was away
with work, eighteen-hour nights
and days. Look—their radiant
faces! Listen—their voices, sweet rivers
on which I, afloat, drift.
When I was eighteen, I was invited to love
for the first time. But before
I arrived at the Garden
of Eden, I spilled what I was
given to deliver. My friend
who presented herself to me
that night in my childhood
bedroom, smiled, took my hand,
and led me to the mirror to admire
our bodies reflected. She was
patient, reassuring, wise.
Did she think we would
find the Garden of Eden
in the mirror, its honey
dripping, its hive alive
with bees? Finally, we fell
back into bed in the dark.
Even if it was only
eighteen seconds, it was real,
almond balm, evergreen breeze,
the garden of all dreams.
Eighteen days or was it eighteen
months or eighteen years: how long
my recovery from first, second,
third love—loss
of the garden?

I’m married now eighteen years. For life.
Marriage is not Eden, where nothing is
broken, shattered, bent, destroyed.
Nothing to forget, nothing to recall.
But there are moments
when there is nothing
more perfect than my wife’s
complaints about her day, the eighteen
ants that crawled on her
legs while she played
on a filthy floor in
Hidden River Trailer Park
with a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, trying
to get him to say
“p” and “b,” as in “pop,” “boom.”
Do you remember the Garden
of Eden, I ask her, and I wait,
and I listen all night, even
long after she has fallen
asleep and I am lying
beside her as beside
the river that waters the garden
on its way out of Eden
where it splits four ways
and spills into children’s lives.


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