Donna Engel, Conversations with Isaac

Donna Engel

You see, I did understand –
it happens all the time. One day
a beautiful child disappears from camp
and no one says a word
until the rains come, and only then
will the women
let themselves weep.

When he told me “God
will provide the sacrifice,” I knew
the jig was up – it’s always somebody’s blood,
and he wouldn’t meet Mother’s eyes
when we left, fiddling with his belt
and dropping the firewood
three times.

And then the long hot questioning walk,
the binding and rough cloth blindfold,
terror whetting my lips, and yellow spit
gagging my throat, my heart already cut
by betrayal, ribs crushed by the long glimpse
into what remained of my empty future
clenching my jaw on the hard cold stone,
the only lover’s kiss I would ever know
lying there, waiting for death.

You know the rest of the story,
he being as surprised as I
by the shocking hand of deliverance –
and it should be happily-ever-after
except he cannot look me in the eyes
for the shame of what almost came to pass.

Now he disappears off to reverie
in the romantic clutches of a new god
who promised him generations and stars,
while I am left not knowing who I am,
truly saved or thoroughly damned –
a pivotal character
living on the dividing line
between old and new ways.

Here’s the secret: It is impossible
to love him anymore, god or no,
because he will forever be the hand
behind the knife, and I do not know
next time
if he will heed the angel sent
to save me.

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