Mark Conway

16. After Abraham Mourns, He Requests Another Son

from The Book of Isaac, Burning

 

Off day, the prairie sill
at evening, choked
               with mustard,
thistle, the coarse meadows
failing
at twilight. Then father

 

went out. To see
early stars turning
               on their bitter
wheel, the small flames
making the lowland
evening blacker.

 

I’m old, he said
               to the night,
alone with the women.
They’re weak, they can’t
               keep these lands.
In winter they’ll eat the corn.

 

Then God scattered the skies
               with father’s seed,
and commanded him
to care for each one.
               Count them
and when you tire of counting,
that number will live for you,
               will suffer
in strange lands,
will lose the way.

 

Dead, they will be yours.

 

Then father fell to the ground,
weeping, but God said,
You can’t give these
sons back to me 
and went away
the way a father always
leaves a son,
               mercifully,
while my father sat in the dirt,
chanting His name.