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ON THE SEPARATION OF ADAM AND EVE by Timothy Liu

It’s unknown when they were first
parted, only that they were painted
on panels by Goltzius circa
1611. Deprived of his companion
in paradise, Adam showed up in 2003
at a French auction and was sold
to a New York dealer, a branch
of hawthorn in our forefather’s hand

It’s unknown when they were first
parted, only that they were painted
on panels by Goltzius circa
1611. Deprived of his companion
in paradise, Adam showed up in 2003
at a French auction and was sold
to a New York dealer, a branch
of hawthorn in our forefather’s hand
clutched to his chest, the bottom edge
of the painting cropped just above
where his nipples would’ve shown—
his life-size figure mirroring back
who we are, sprigs of hawthorn
crowning his curls, all sold in turn
to the Wadsworth Atheneum the following
year. Exactly when Eve showed up
in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Strasbourg
is beside the point. What counts is when
you turn the panels over, the markings
match. Never mind that they were made
for one another, his head turning
to his own left, hers to the right,
offering up an apple to his mouth
if only she could move it from one frame
to the next. Nor will his hand ever touch
her breasts, nipples angled up, her tresses
flowing free. The curator of the Wadsworth
claims it’s been centuries since this pair
was last seen together, other paintings
in their vast collection still searching
for their mates, often victims of scheduling
or financial restraints. Best hurry up
while there’s time—our reunited couple
on view from Feb. 14 to the end of May.

 

Listen to Timothy Liu’s reading of “On The Separation of Adam and Eve” below…

 

 

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Adam_and_Eve

Timothy Liu’s poem refers to Dutch master Hendrick Goltzius’ panels Adam and Eve, painted in the early 17th century.  The paintings were briefly reunited for an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts of Strasbourg in the spring of 2010, after over a century apart. Image courtesy of The Wadsworth Museum.


 


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About Timothy Liu

Timothy Liu
Timothy Liu is the author of eight books of poems, most recently Bending the Mind Around the Dream’s Blown Fuse. Translated into ten languages, Liu’s journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. Liu is a Professor of English at William Paterson University and lives with his husband in Manhattan. Read more at www.timothyliu.comuf.com.