Mark Conway

8. What Isaac Knew of Forgiveness

from The Book of Isaac, Burning


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.