The Garden of Eden, Fortune Cookies and Demonology, Let Them go to the Waters, Late Winter Nocturne, Modernist Musings
The Garden of Eden
Long before Constantine’s misbegotten Roman mindset
screwed up the Western World a Power and a Presence
was already there; extending into millenniums past, the
primeval moment that bleeding pumps through the heart,
the soul, the physical existence of every individual who
has lived, died, or will be born; the true nature was denied,
constrained, and we live now in a world fueled by that
evil power nearly two thousand years gone.
The thoughts are still the same; the people are identical:
sheep that look up at the stars in great wonder, and yet
listen to voices who have no tongue tell them what to do,
what to believe, what to worship, give them all that is theirs,
worked for in a lifetime in the name of a false god
or demon or Satan or pan or anything else that the mad mind
can conjure—until some semblance of sanity reflected in wood,
tree, sky, sun, moon, earth, brings again a balance.
Then, those who know, who have lived with the tremendous
challenges, changes of the western world since the advent of
Galileo, Copernicus, bring a new shine and realize that the
Apollo moonshot showed us the Garden of Eden.
Fortune Cookies and Demonology
There we were, two people engaging in a common
lunch. My companion a good Southern Baptist, the
conversation as unique as a hummingbird in the arctic,
we discussed an article on demonology by this Enlightenment
He doesn’t think they exist, she said, yet he wouldn’t cross the
circle on the tour in Edenborough like the stupid kid did and
became sick, weird.
-They don’t exist unless you call them up, I said. Like Young
Goodman Brown imagining the devil at his very elbow. Voila!
The old snake immediately appears.
Fingering her chopsticks like a rosary, she uttered, how is that possible?
Call them up? No, the devil and his demons are always there waiting to screw
-A matter of science, I replied. Up here in your head. Everything that we
can think of must exist, how else could we have the thought?
Over sips of wine, you told me, once, that energy waves change
into particles when observed.
-They do. We call it all up. Consciousness through incomprehensible
mindgames. The color red; a flower sipped by bees; love and sorrow
and misery and hate.
But how can that be? That which does not exist cannot be made real.
-Yes it can. Before Bacon the world was magical, filled with all the
demons and fairies and creatures because they are Plato’s forms,
and when the quantum was discovered, science again embraced
magic, a world now misconceived as material, for it is spirit potential.
Call and it will be given. Ask and one shall receive.
-The unfathomable mind. The mind without which nothing exists.
All the ills of the world like this rice, this California roll. Those miseries
must be caused by fallen angels.
-No more than a fortune cookie message. No more than the hawk plummeting
on a mouse. No more than the sun and moon and earth locked
into a space trinity spiralling along like wound DNA that drives all.
But the horrors, the evil, what is wrong with us?
-There’s nothing wrong with us. We are as intended to be, as
relevant as that great slaughter of sun falling in the west.
Let Them go to the Waters
In 18-degree weather I find myself cutting firewood,
crusted with frost, with snow, like my grandfather
before me. Red oak and smooth bark hickory,
the grain as strong as his hands
weathered by years of cutting wood, blackened,
cracked by decades of the deep mines.
The wood that he gathered would heat a house,
cook biscuits and gravy by my grandmother
on the wood burning stove, the same stove
my aunts would heat water to wash their long
hair before church or the dream of an admirer.
I do not need this wood for burning.
Shattered boughs are a love communion
for the past locked in a timeless present.
Ten children he raised, ten and me, on wood
burned year round, his woodshed as neat and fit
as a fine ticking clock, filled to the brim with oak,
hickory, beech, locust, maple—and love.
You have to let them go to the waters.
He told me once that he dreamed of a single
drop of blood that fell from an hourglass,
as though expecting me to decipher the riddle.
I was no Joseph to interpret a patriarch’s dream,
but now I understand this time as the sun
settling in the west like a love letter
slipped into an envelope. The underworld, land
of the dead the ancients believed.
When he died, I told my grandmother “You have to get
rid of all these clothes.”
She said, “but what if he comes back, what if he needs
You have to let them go to the waters.
After he was gone, she would wander from room to room,
gazing out windows like magical eyes, she, so adult,
now returned to childhood, looking, waiting, for his
You have to let them go to the waters.
In order to live ourselves, the time comes when we
must hold the requiem of relinquishment for the dead.
Let them become the photograph on the wall,
sounds of splitting wood, bacon sizzling on a
wood stove, the intertwined roots of trees
whispering of the dead.
None of this makes the fact easier. Years roll
on and on, ceremonious ritual of return like a
holy memory spectacle collected as a bag of souvenirs
held on tongue’s bitter ending.
Let them go to the waters.
The land crossed into is where we have faith,
where we drink from still waters,
where we drive with wood to build evening’s fire,
where we realize we were the prophets all along.
Late Winter Nocturne
Loading wood for the fire in a wheelbarrow
the wheel trundles through wet mud pointing
to strange blue clouds in the east as though they
are mired in season’s end, & the
wheel rotating like the solar system in the outer
arms spiraling around the galactic center.
Flying birds are fall’s fugitives as they too
spiral like Fibonacci numbers or the primary
colors of a limited palette.
Like we spiral around life’s flame watching
the concentric circles of a tree expand year by
year calling out the name of far, dry cities where
people shuffle by gutters unrecognized.
This is where I long to be—at the head of a holler,
dreaming of rocks shagged with ice, perfect order,
The moon has been here, coppery umbra; the sun
fled in the time of the Romans. Their numerals
cannot scribe this place. No poor pen can graffiti
meaning like hemlock roots tapping the mysteries
of Stonehenge, Gobekli Tepe, Baalbek,
living requiems played out in triple time that
modern steel cannot match high in gray skies
where night comes in chiming waves,
a clock measuring out a past never dead, imperceptible,
chaste, no passion, no rage, no love nor hate,
only a deluge rolled by as silent pyramids
where white-clothed women sail through as wraiths
singing an old, old song that
brooks the coming revolution.
I want to drink with Hemingway
in a clean, well-lighted place,
talk with Wallace Stevens about
Jupiter after church on Sunday.
Take Eliot back up a stair he never
ascended. Reconcile Plath with
her Daddy, turn Sexton into a Barbie
Cinderella. Materialize Yeats into the
third coming. Counsel Dali to stop
such mad dreaming & tell Picasso
to reassemble the fragments of
Mademoiselles de Avignon.
Frank, I’ll do it my way.
Pollock, you’ve lived a splattered life.
Bring in Freud to dance with subconscious
sheep, William James to float them down
the stream & O’Neil to instruct about God.
In the end who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Ralph Monday is Professor of English at RSCC in Harriman, TN. Hundreds of poems published. Books: All American Girl and Other Poems, 2014. Empty Houses and American Renditions, 2015. Narcissus the Sorcerer, 2015. Bergman’s Island & Other Poems, 2021, and a humanities text, 2018. Twitter @RalphMonday Poets&Writers https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/ralph_monday