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About this Poem 

“In writing this poem I was interested in coopting the idea of a biblical origin story and utilizing biblical imagery to tell a personal narrative about childhood and becoming self-aware. This is a poem not so much about the genesis of a self or a people, but about the genesis of understanding one’s difference, one’s relationship to others, and one’s allowances and restrictions.”
Morgan Parker

The Book of Genesis

Once I was:
lone brown spot
in a garden

of upright stems
They said
what do you have to say

let your dry lips open
let cocoa powder
rain onto our desks

they stared at me
for six days
as if I were a peach pit

as if by lunchtime
I would be swallowed
into the sandbox

like a dream   They led me
to a sink made me
wash my hands in cold oil

I was a temple
angels are watching over
they chanted

until I never slept
my eyes turned purple
with guilt and imagination

they never let me eat
the stale body or fill
my ribs with bitter juice

they led me to an apple tree
I swear to God
told me to sit and wait

until my earrings got heavy
and I could see right through
the whole damn city

these days I think
I can find truth in song
as if it started inside me

these days I think
a powdered rock
could save us

cold oils of a stranger’s tongue
and I sleep with
my hands in little fists

tucked close to my chin
this is the way my people
have slept for years

O garden of soiled light
I believe in
different reasons

Copyright © 2015 by Morgan Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Copyright © 2015 by Morgan Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House Books, 2017).

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They descend from the boat two by two. The gap in Angela Davis’s teeth speaks to the gap in James Baldwin’s teeth. The gap in James Baldwin’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s Teeth. The gap in Malcolm X’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s teeth. The gap in Condoleezza Rice’s teeth doesn’t speak. Martin
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