Three Poems by Amanda Jernigan
Four Rivers Flow from Eden
One bears the tears of Eve.
It offers up the summer fruit,
reflected, to the summer tree
that gets down on its knees to see
branch ramified as root.
One bear the words of Adam,
and with its current swims
the fish of the sea after his kind:
haddock and char, downstream to find
the nets cast for their names.
One bears the voice of God,
dividing land from land.
It juggles suns: first one, then two,
then three, a million! hallelujah—
spills them in the sand.
Four rivers flow from Eden,
and all of them are true
and all flow from a single source,
but one meanders in its course.
It ravels like a clew.
In the mountains to the west
there are wonders water-made.
All the slopes are green-inlaid.
There the giant takes his rest.
Let us follow any stream
until it’s lost itself in sand
to find the unforgetting land
That we may excavate his dream.
First the men who moved like motes
across the desert, travelling
to strange reunions, ravelling
their caravans; then men in boats,
who opened harbours in his side
that skiffs and biremes might admire
their reflections, men from Tyre;
then he dreamed a Roman tide:
thrice the ebb and thrice the flow
before the overwhelming. The Romans
called the land accursed, but omens
pale—they soon returned to plow.
He then dreamed men of piety,
each bearing in a jewelled box,
which is to say a church or mosque,
another perfect deity.
Now, in the shade of the medina,
vendors hawk whatever sells.
A litter of copper bracelets, bells,
Nintendo sets and painted china:
an archaeologist’s refrain.
Above us in the potsherd sky
no cumulus perturbs the eye,
but in the mountains there is rain,
and things to not stay buried there.
Who among us will be found,
and in what postures, overground,
when Atlas excavates the air?
a woman the colour
of clay looks out
across the vessel’s
in all that dark water, never a bright sail.
Au verso, this
same woman, now
looks out across
the vessel’s ground,
in all that bright water, never a black ship.
Pour out the water.
From the vantage
of the vase painter,
the distant traveller,
this momentary column
holds you up.
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