The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 14 no. 2


Andrea Cohen

The Gates of Paradise


The Gates of Paradise
are bitter, my father says.
Don’t tell Francesca.
He doesn’t mean to seem
ungrateful, tasting what he thought
he shouldn’t—the dark
chocolate replica she’s made
of a portion of Ghiberti’s gates,
a one-off of the wax sculpture
she cast to better understand
how he made his masterpiece.
He wants to keep the cocoa
facsimile with the family
photos on the mantle, but I tell him
the chocolate won’t last, the butter
will separate, the deep mahogany
mottle. Reluctantly he breaks
off a bit with a boy and his dog.
This could be my Rex and me,
my father says, meaning he’s nibbling
his childhood, which bears some
resemblance to the gates of paradise,
leading, as it did, to much contentment and many
letters to the editor. If he’d been
a more spiritual man, he’d have petitioned
his god. Instead, it’s the editors,
to whom he offers suggestions,
which are different from complaint.
He sees a place as it one day may be.
He repeats: the Gates of Paradise are bitter,
handing me a brittle piece. It’s the evening
of his eightieth birthday, a day
he held an open house that my mother
describes as a sort of happy wake,
the guest of honor serving barbeque.
The party’s over. We’re
the afterglow—insatiable,
devouring the Gates of Paradise
in the fleeting umber light we
seem to cast. Oh, they
are bitter, and we cannot stop.