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’s newest book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Friedman’s poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Hotel Amerika, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, The New Republic and numerous other literary magazines and anthologies. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials:A Selection by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of translations Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016.  He has received numerous awards and prizes including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship (with Dzvinia Orlowsky) in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council.