Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Leaving Paradise

Massaccio, The Expulsion
I wrote the poem below to keep pace with my students in my Milton course, who were creating poems, paintings, and pieces of music based on/working off their reading of Milton.

It's my way of putting a new spin on the ending of Paradise Lost (the last four lines of which are quoted as the epigraph).

It wasn't till after the course ended, on Sunday, that I realized it was not just about Adam and Eve leaving Paradise, it was also about me leaving this course on Paradise Lost and Milton.

Adam and Eve Walk Out of Paradise
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.
-- Milton, Paradise Lost

We left that evening, late, on foot.
The sun had set, but there was light
enough to see our way. We put
our faces east, to the coming night.

Looking back west, we saw the path
was guarded: angels watched us leave.
Who had arranged for all that wrath?
And why? To reinforce our grief?

To our surprise, the apple trees
had burst in bloom like white-hot balls
of flame against the darkening sky.
Some petals had begun to fall.

We had no clue of where to go,
but, really, we thought, how hard
could exile be? there was a road,
there were the trees, the earth, the stars.

We knew so little then, and yet,
the only things that mattered were
that we were there; that something lay ahead;
that nothing, then or now, was sure.