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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 21, 2018.
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

The Tree of Knowledge

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 me

Copyright © 2018 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of six poetry collections, including The Gilded Auction Block (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).  

by this poet

poem

America I was I think I was

Seven I think or anyway I prob-

ably was    nine    I anyway was nine

 

And riding in the back    seat of our tan

Datsun 210    which by the way Amer-

ica I can’t believe    Datsun is just

 

Gone    anyway   America I was

Riding in

poem

Nicholas turned     eleven two

Months he ago a he ago

I after him a-running still

But quietly and far away


For the first time turned     far away

Without me or     without that day

Me seeing him on all the bright-

ness gone     the day     the snow had gone

poem

A white man wouldn't less

He stripped me naked was

Whipping me know

I was a woman     got

A name just turn

It inside out

And I'm a man

How else I'm gonna know myself

When I am called




A white