Donald Justice, “The Wall”

The wall surrounding them they never saw;
The angels, often. Angels were as common
As birds or butterflies, but looked more human.
As long as the wings were furled, they felt no awe.
Beasts, too, were friendly. They could find no flaw
In all of Eden: this was the first omen.
The second was the dream which woke the woman.
She dreamed she saw the lion sharpen his claw.
As for the fruit, it had no taste at all.
They had been warned of what was bound to happen.
They had been told of something called the world.
They had been told and told about the wall.
They saw it now; the gate was standing open.
As they advanced, the giant wings unfurled.

This is my favorite Donald Justice poem.  There is a good story about his having written this for a writing workshop and the professor being angry (jokingly I assume) about how perfect it was.  My favorite line is the blunt almost numbed perfection of “as for the fruit it had no taste at all.”

Afternote:  I went back and found the story, it is way down here: in the section “Donald Justice on His Teachers at Iowa” – apparently, the professor was Berryman!  But there are a few different versions related of the story.



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