The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

by Shane McCrae

The hastily assembled angel saw
One thing was like another thing and that
Thing like another everything depend-
ed on how high it was the place you saw

Things from and he had seen the Earth from where
A human couldn’t see the Earth and could-
n’t tell most human things apart and though
He hadn’t ever really understood

His job he knew it had to do with seeing
And what he saw was everything would come
Together at the same time everything
Would fall apart and that was humans thinking

The world was meant for them and other things
Were accidental or were decora-
tions meant for them and therefore purposeful
That humans thought that God had told them so

And what the hastily assembled angel
Thought was that probably God had said the same thing
To every living thing on Earth and on-
ly stopped when one said Really back but then

Again the hastily assembled angel
Couldn’t tell human things apart and maybe
That Really mattered what would he have heard
Holy or maybe Folly or maybe Kill

About This Poem

“‘The Tree of Knowledge’ is part of a tiny sequence of poems featuring a being I call ‘the hastily assembled angel.’ A lot of the poems I’ve been writing lately seem to me to be very belated responses to the Martian poetry that briefly appeared in the United Kingdom about forty years ago, and so feature protagonists to whom Earth seems even more strange than it seems to people who live on Earth in a more everyday way. If our country is going to be led by a comic-book villain, our poems might as well be filled with Martians.”
—Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author, most recently, of The Gilded Auction Block forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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