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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

up believers.


-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

his shoes?”


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,

perfect form.

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.


Modernist Musings


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

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