Figures by Peter Paul Rubens, landscape and animals by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 'The garden of Eden with the fall of man,' c. 1615

Like many fathers God had no patience
for infants. So he made us older
but naïve. We never needed
to crawl, bruise bone on stone

or feel the sting of his rod.
We lacked experience with failure.
Unlucky that way, our lost childhood
was like a death from the opposite end.

He may have been bored as hell
in heaven, alone with his stars, empty
space and that initial Word yet undefined.
He had little to do but play

with the things he’d made. Eager
for us to make sense or mistakes,
he sent that darker ego with a tiny tongue
and tempting promises.

With so much to learn, who wouldn’t
be curious? Many men envy their fathers.
We wanted all he knew, the whole garden,
but we hoped he would leave us alone.

Gary Stein’s Touring the Shadow Factory won the Brick Road Poetry Press annual competition in 2017. His chapbook, Between Worlds (Finishing Line, 2014), was a contest finalist. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Folio, Penn Review, the Atlanta Review, and the Asheville Poetry Review. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, co-edited Cabin Fever (The Word Works, 2004), and has taught creative writing in high schools and colleges.

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Published in the November 2023 issue: View Contents
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