By: Robert S. King
The First Lovers of Paradise
Sunshine waves down from heaven
and reddens the skin.
A river snakes into paradise,
carrying a load from unknown lands.
The lovers bathe, drink, and laugh
in holy water slowly muddied
by burning battleships,
by hollow skulls and bad apples
bobbing in the shallows,
and by their own strange dreams.
Each day the river turns redder.
The future flows in.
The First Person on Earth Between Fire and Ice
For the first time, the garden
is cold enough for clothes today.
An angel whispers of seasons
changing, fur coats, and fire.
The cold wind arrived first.
Southbound birds swarm overhead,
stalks of grass snake into hidden holes,
and Eve and I take shelter beneath a tree
waving us under its apples falling.
Wind is God’s cold breath, the angel says,
blowing Lucifer, the arsonist, from paradise,
but all of Heaven fears that the gale
failed to put out the fire,
instead fanned Evil’s flames.
The First Person Never Finds Paradise Enough
Paradise has fenced in
many of God’s creatures.
Their tracks lead to the forbidden
border, to a long rope bridge
across a great divide.
Only birds and bats escape.
Hooves fear the sway of the rope
and the distance of the fall.
I come here to dare crossing
the one who made me
on a bridge too narrow to turn back.
I stand at the beginning paralyzed
by fear and indecision,
but Desire has already gone ahead,
waits impatiently on the other side.
The First Person on Earth Has no Pockets
and there are no zippers on the skin
to show me what’s beneath.
In this first nudist colony,
sun changes only the shade of skin.
Secret, burning questions are forbidden.
Yet my mind sizzles in the slow dawn
of wondering what might lie beyond
my dreams and premonitions.
In paradise, the near horizon has no peaks
and valleys. Fruit trees sag with the weight
of plenty. But I hear the thunder of distant
beasts closer and louder each night. Still, we
crouch down, dare not flee the holy border.
I don’t know how to go from here.
I have itchy feet but no shoes to travel,
no map or knowledge of what lies ahead.
I have only a lover and garden to reap.
A voice above the treetops tells me
that there is nothing greater
than the peace of wanting only what I have.
I eat the bounty, yet my stomach growls
as answer to the roars from another world.
Soft hands tempt me with the sweet
juice of venom.
When I take a bite, I am bitten,
suddenly grow cold enough for clothes,
and for the first time hear
my flesh tearing, shedding
like the snake bulging from his skin.
The First Person on Earth Before the Second
No matter who comes after,
I will always be the first,
first to live and maybe
first to die.
Whatever occurs to me
will make history
like the moment I learned
my first name.
I still don’t know the true name
of God, or if He is done
making me in his image,
and I’m not sure He knows
exactly how I should look.
The First Person on Earth Punished and Partly Tamed
Now that I know too much
I want to know the rest,
why I can love and hate myself
at the same time, why the stars
don’t fall, why the sweet apple
has a worm with fangs,
and why oh why do I wish
to kiss and kill in the same day?
Seems to me that man was made
for hunting, not obedience.
Yet my big bite of curiosity has cost
me paradise. I am made in His image
but sin if I seek to be Him.
Then I should not strive to be as good
as He who banishes His creations
to suffer in the imperfect world He made.
Robert S. King lives in Athens, GA, where he serves on the board of FutureCycle Press and edits the literary journal Good Works Review. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014), Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014), and Messages from Multiverses (Duck Lake Books, 2020).