The History of Forgetting

By Lawrence Raab

Featured Image: Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder

When Adam and Eve lived in the garden
they hadn’t yet learned how to forget.
For them every day was the same day.
Flowers opened, then closed.
They went where the light told them to go.
They slept when it left, and did not dream.

What could they have remembered,
who had never been children? Sometimes
Adam felt a soreness in his side,
but if this was pain it didn’t appear to
require a name, or suggest the idea
that anything else might be taken away.
The bright flowers unfolded,
swayed in the breeze.

It was the snake, of course, who knew
about the past—that such a place could exist.
He understood how people would yearn
for whatever they’d lost, and so to survive
they’d need to forget. Soon
the garden will be gone, the snake
thought, and in time God himself.

These were the last days—Adam and Eve
tending the luxurious plants, the snake
watching from above. He knew
what had to happen next, how persuasive
was the taste of that apple. And then
the history of forgetting would begin—
not at the moment of their leaving,
but the first time they looked back.


Lawrence Raab is the author of nine books of poems, most recently Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts (Tupelo, 2015), which was longlisted for the National Book Award, and named one of the Ten Best Poetry Books of 2015 by The New York Times, and The Life Beside This One (Tupelo 2017). A new collection, April at the Ruins, will appear from Tupelo in March 2022.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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