Nothing in their world had an origin,
Or could be thought of as “original.”
They called the animals their next of kin,
Though there was hardly any need to call,
So little of importance happened, ever:
Shattered plates, stains on the upholstery
Made them aware, somewhat, of entropy:
A second-hand shop was their first endeavor.

Either they did without or else made do
With tools and clothing that required mending,
For in this Garden there was nothing new,
And time went on without a thought of ending.
Once, though, she pried a rock up to uncover
A serpent who’d been dozing underneath;
He taught her how to weave a floral wreath,
And told her she was beautiful and clever.

The thieves who broke into the treasury
Were amateurs, and in their bungled theft
Did many kinds of mischief; as you see
There’s only one unbroken tablet left:
“Pride led them to transgressions without number,”
It reads, “Until He drove them through the Gate,
Forbidding their return to the Estate.
Cast out, they fell into a dream-filled slumber.

And they, when they had shaken off the spell,
Surmised their story was already known
To all those who were seated round the well
Of the amphitheater built out of the stone
Salvaged from the Wall, where it lay broken—
That ancient wonder, raised by God-knows-who,
Its fame (and theirs) refreshed now in a new
Translation from a tongue no longer spoken.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 5, on page 38
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