Mark Conway

8. What Isaac Knew of Forgiveness

He counts on me

like he counts the corn,   

worrying down to Harvest. 


While Father sleeps,

the moon gets fat on cheese.

It lasts all night,


her little head on fire,

still eating.  She’s like me,       

I heal well, too.  


When Father leaves for town,

there will be a silver

flask, forgotten


cigarettes, everything

I’ve been punished for

there for the taking.


In the morning I still like

to see the thorn riding  

its rose


and put out

my thumb to prick 

the needle, swollen to the stem.


When he returns, the mare blooded

on the flanks,

I’ll clear her eyes with water,


then vapor seethes off her back.

The mare is so beautiful

he rides her


too hard to get home, the way

he loves me so much

it makes him angry.


He said I am forgiven.

I only have to ask like the bird

for seed.  I’m the one


who caught it and named it,

stupid wren crashing

into windows.  I only expect it


to sing.  I give it old cake

drenched in honey, stick

his beak shut, say Sing.


“8. What Isaac Knew of Forgiveness” (from The Book of Isaac, Burning) was first published in Ploughshares, Winter, 2003.