Hold the Fig Leaves



The angels, we remember
do not come to
the temple, filled
with bankers and merchants
nor to the holy men
waiting patiently, legs crossed,
for enlightenment.

Instead, for shepherds
and their dumb creatures.
For shepherds grumbling at the hour,
the absent wolf,
the stupidity of sheep.

They did not ask for this:
This light, this crowded sky
full of song.


Unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skin and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

It had been a long week, even for a God.
Oceans, bears, thick turquoise veins in dirt.

Half asleep, exasperated with
their constant naming,
already regretting those two trees,
still tinkering with fate, when
they asked for this one thing
with which to cross the border.

(Did you mean to put us somewhere safe
and so invented gardens?
Were we too well-made, naive but
good at climbing walls and always
always hungry, with a sweet tooth?)

You stitch the seams,
bite one loose thread,
hand them their useless clothes.

Let’s forget the fig leaves.
Rethink authorial assumptions.
Put aside, for a moment, the snake,
the tree, the angel with
the flaming sword.

I’m willing to believe
these souvenirs that we so craved
were given in compassion,
to ease our fear of exile
in worlds big enough for maps.

I’m willing to believe
you sewed to teach us tenderness.


We pretend disenchantment
with ordinary days.
We mimic frustration.

Our lives are cloaked.

Each day we act our role
petty with drudgery.
We forget it is a lie.

Remember, today, how wily we are,
masked to trick the gods, to bore them
with our tiny problems.
To remain unworthy
of their painful interest.

Paula Elsloo is a writer living in New York.