Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon
~Milton, Book 12 of Paradise Lost

A flaming sword describes the figure 8
against the calculations on a gate
of metal angels, fiends and seraphim.
Its cycling flare invigorates the dim
and adamant across the silver plate

before the garden’s godlike profligate.
Enlightened as to what might compensate
the primal ash—a death that offers him
a flaming sward

or Paradise hereafter—he’ll await
the play of sleep that holds his mate
between the roots and briars with a grim
and steely animal. Its phantom limb
and foliating tounge manipulate
a flaming sword.

Illustration from R. Crumb’s new The Book of Genesis Illustrated.


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