Jeff Friedman

The Killing
October 13, 2013 Friedman Jeff

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 has published nine collections of poetry and prose, including The Marksman (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2020), Floating Tales (Plume Editions/Madhat Press, 2017), and most recently The House of Grana Padano (Pelekinesis, April 2022), cowritten with Meg Pokrass. Friedman’s poems, mini tales and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, Plume, Dreaming Awake: New Contemporary Prose Poetry from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom and The New Republic, and Best Microfiction 2021 and 2022. He has received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship and numerous other awards and prizes.