The Killing

While Abraham binds his son’s hands,

loads sticks on his chest, while he raises

his knife skyward and looks to the heavens,

while Isaac, obedient to his father,

lies still on the jury-rigged altar,

watching the knife as if the knife

were his real father, while flies swirl

around Abraham’s head,

and birds of prey circle above,

while an angel descends, touches

Abraham on the shoulder,

and their eyes meet for an eternity,

a ram, caught in the thicket, bleats.

Now the angel restrains Abraham,

whose haggard face is haunted by God,

haunted by the ghost of the deed he has yet

to commit. Is it necessary to sacrifice

his son? he doesn’t ask. The covenant

hangs in the air. A nation will be born

from grains of sand, from stars. Peace

will come only through violence,

through war, through sacrifice.

The flies fling themselves furiously

at his face. The circle of predators

grows, their calls threats.

The angel disappears into waves

of heat. Though Abraham walks

to the thicket, Isaac doesn’t move,

in his mind the dagger tip

still pointed at his heart.

Abraham frees the ram from the thicket,

returns with the animal in his arms.

Now his son won’t die alone.



Jeff Friedman’s sixth collection of poetry, Pretenders, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2014. His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, Agni Online, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Solstice, Antioch Review, Quick Fiction, New England Review, 100-Word Story, Per Contra, New England Review Digital, Sentence, North American Review, Boulevard, Missouri Review, Big Bridge, Storyscape, Anthem, Vestal Review, and The New Republic.

Issue #28 October 2012
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