Quit teaching in 1997. Since then still writing poems—and some stories—that still manage getting into print. Hope that doesn’t stop, since I’m working on a 2nd New & Selected Poems, covering 2004-2016.
After the 15th century painting (tempera and gold on wood), The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise, by Giovanni di Paolo. In other versions by di Paolo of this scene, the position of the angel’s hand is not so ambiguous as he pushes Adam and Eve out of Eden.
We look over our shoulders,
arms lifted as if dropping
a great burden, bellies rounded
from the garden’s bounty, lean,
pale, beautiful as the angel
driving us away.
The puzzle is not
our lack of aureole—his flat
gold halo identical to God’s,
seen as we face Him
approaching from an irritated
distance—but why we’re not alarmed
at going or staying, speechless in birdsong
air, placid as angels are meant to be.
God is moving toward us,
rolling the wheel of Creation
like a plate of concentric and varying
blues, upheld by seven winged heads
that must be angels lacking bodies,
my hand pointing at the verge
that is Eden, obscuring your
breast, the angel pushing
us past seven narrow trees
twining upward like ironwood,
the entrance to your womb a folded shadow.
His leg’s bent at the knee,
sprinter’s calf curved
as the apples in spiked
leaves above our heads,
puckered around their stems
like hindquarters of sleeping
animals in configurations of gray
resolved into salamanders.
We are looking into his sibling eyes,
we are caught among flowers,
stepping on five-hundred-year-old
scarlet vegetation, four serpents
streaming a trompe l’oeil
oozing toward a hillock or pit,
three strides jeopardized
by God’s wheel bearing down upon us.
We’ve misjudged the angel.
He wants us to stay,
thin hand on my shoulder
twisting me toward the edge
of his halo, an encroaching
Your face becomes furrowed,
your hand bends upward,
warding off a blow at the border,
though you, too, turn
toward his loneliness.
Any minute there might never be
the small scar above your lip,
my mole removed with electric
needle, sadness on Davidson Avenue,
sparrows plucking bread from fire
escapes, your letters from Indiana.
We shall never button our daughter’s coat,
climbing the snowy hills of Syracuse.
First published in The Quarterly
©2016 John Allman
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