An Abrahamic Sestina

Fathers and Sons

When you had seen one hundred summers, you took your knife,
Glinting, ready to smear with the bright blood
Of the first get of your life, the cause of wife-laughter, your son
The singular branch of your near-extinct tree.
There he is, leaf without blemish, branch without thorn,
Proving you, at last, not desolate waste but live ram.

And you are stubborn also, animal like, you ram
Your way to the burnt place of the knife,
Ready to pierce him, his translucent skin, your thorn,
Glinting, driven by the voice you hear at night, calling blood
For burnt offering, for taste of flesh scorched to a tree,
And you, bitter, embittered, you wanted a son.

You prayed. You fasted. He promised a son,
Promised you children, a nation, he gave you a ram,
A sacrifice, to burn, to feed a tree’s
Roots with the life of your body, your knife
Sharp against the bare throat of that boy, drawing blood
Quick as the opening, the slit from a thorn.

This is your grievance, your argument, the thorn
In your side. He, who you trusted, asked for your son,
Asked for this when he promised a nation of blood
That you would foster, spread like the seed of a ram,
Flocking everywhere, unafraid, never knowing the knife,
Growing, living, always under those spreading trees.

And what is it, with Gods and their trees?
A method for blood-letting, trees and their thorns,
Feeding sons, or threatening, to the immoral knives
Of innumerable damned. Abraham, Abraham, your son,
You pile him onto an altar of twigs meant for a ram’s
Slaughter. You will do it, he asked. Let the blood

Flow down, let it feed indebted earth, the blood
That would stain the thin grain of that tree,
Hewn and gathered, your child is the ram,
Flawless and perfect, set aside, not yours. Thorns
Binding, piercing that skin, the flesh of your son,
Who was leant you, who lies there awaiting the knife.

You took your only son up there, bound to the hewn slats
Of a tree, ready to smear with blood. You took your knife
And bent to him, just barely glimpsing the ram caught in thorns.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on January 18, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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