Paradise, a place of hopes and dreams, NOT corporeal, NOT – despite eons of striving – a place within reach. And so, a place compatible with words. On this page, we post verbal evocations of elusive paradise, which continually fade and drift toward other meanings no matter how hard we try to pin paradise down. You cannot, after all, stand on a cloud.—Paradise on the Cloud Editors
Madhu Kaza and Erik Schurink
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.—Heaven’s Founder and CEO, Jesus
Don’t be fooled in your search for paradise:
click here for a Claymation lesson on Satan’s wiles.
Out beyond ideas
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
—Lynn Aarti Chandhok
The clattering horse-drawn carriages, the horns,
the hawkers all fall silent in the flash,
then chaos rises, shattering paradise.
My loss is trivial: a childhood home
to which return would be a senseless risk
just to confirm that paradise was real.
True, even as a child I understood
that bitterness had bled into the earth
beneath the dahlias, leached into the roots
of zinnias, marigolds, to murky lakes
where lotus lay, flat-leaved, blooming in bright
profusions out of quiet pools. I knew
that past the ridge we climbed that August day
to find a hidden lake one might mistake
for sky itself, beyond this, nestled down
between the peaks were border guards, two bands
of men who, facing of, kept peace: the peace
men fought for, not the other peace — the one
we found that day along the mountain ridge,
the air distilled, the silence cooled by clouds;
the peace that led the glaciers age unmoved,
and painted Himalayan peaks in grays
that shifted off the setting sun to blue;
the peace that marked the end of evening prayer,
the ancient song drawn down to whispering
Om shanti, shanti, shanti, om.
We’ve moved away. Though the borders haven’t changed
for more than fifty years, we can’t forget
the train cars burned — a body for a body.
On either side, the only truth is loss,
and blame is strewn like wreckage or debris,
the storylines, disputed maps, redrawn.
in a garden
a girl eats an apple
and an old woman watches
then walks up
and asks if it is sweet
and the girl says both
and the woman smiles,
in another garden
a girl asks a woman
if god is a boy
or a girl
and the woman says both
and the girl asks,
like a worm?
“And yet from what is to what could be you cross a bridge that takes you, no more, no less from Hell to Paradise. And more bizarre: a Paradise composed of the exact same material as Hell.”
—Odysseas Elytis, from Open Papers
Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter
I love to see the old heath’s withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps its melancholy wing,
An oddling crow in idle motion swing
On the half-rotten ash-tree’s topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the haw round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.
“Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much much better.”
—Abd Allah ibn al-Simak (d. 1145)
The garden of green hillocks
dresses up for visitors
in the most beautiful colors
As if a young woman’s dowry
were spread out
glittering with gold necklaces
or as if someone had poured out
censers of musk powder
mixed with the purest aromatic oils.
Birds trill on the branches
like singing girls
bending over their lutes
and water falls continuously
of silver and pearls
These are splendors of such perfection
they call to mind
the beauty of absolute certainty,
the radiance of faith.
—Stephanie Pruitt (b. 1979)
slaves, she answers, as I sink
my fingers beneath the roots.
the knees of that blue housedress are threadbare.
she wears it on Tuesdays and Fridays when we tend the flowers.
pullin’ weeds ain’t a time for talk she chides.
I watch her uproot the creeping charlie.
the fragrant blossoms we protect, hug our whole house.
sweet peas were my choice.
we rarely buy those things for sale in the garden aisle.
don’t make sense to work the earth and not feel it.
I wanted those thick cotton gloves, but they stayed on the shelf.
you gotta learn the difference between dirt and soil.
sometime I notice how the ground changes.
denser, darker, moister, a little more red in some places.
in social studies class I learned about crop rotation
and how it keeps the land fertile.
Mama, what did they used to grow here?
The Snakes of September
—Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
All summer I heard them
ustling in the shrubbery,
outracing me from tier
to tier in my garden,
a whisper among the viburnums,
a signal flashed from the hedgerow,
a shadow pulsing
in the barberry thicket.
Now that the nights are chill
and the annuals spent,
I should have thought them gone,
in a torpor of blood
slipped to the nether world
before the sickle frost.
Not so. In the deceptive balm
of noon, as if defiant of the curse
that spoiled another garden,
these two appear on show
through a narrow slit
in the dense green brocade
of a north-country spruce,
dangling head-down, entwined
in a brazen love-knot.
I put out my hand and stroke
the fine, dry grit of their skins.
we are partners in this land,
co-signers of a covenant.
At my touch the wild
braid of creation