As I hid behind the tent door,
I heard flies murmuring promises
in the noonday heat,
and laughed into my hands, afraid.
For my laughter and my small lie,
I would pay a price.
Nests burst. Birds fell,
their wings crumbling. The bright
ash flurried. Abraham fetched
my tender young calf. I lay
on a hard bed while the surgeon leaned
over me with his scalpel and smiled.
Wind carried away my beauty,
and the desert stole my grace.
Years passed. I lifted
a handful of dust from the well.
A brief lamp at dusk, Isaac burned
like tallow, and Abraham billowed
toward the heavens, a thick black smoke.
As I walked out on the hot sand,
a blizzard of salt covered my path.
In the palace I smelled casks
of red wine, persimmon, figs,
meat roasting on a spit. I smelled
her black hair, her vanilla skin.
Bees twirled in air.
Honey dripped from my lips,
and finally I cried out
for the beauty that blinded me.
As I lay on a bed of sand, waiting
for sleep to find me, a splintery ladder
descended from heaven, but maybe it was a tree layered
with thick bark, its country of branches
bearing plump fruit. Wraiths flew up
and down while crows ripped worms from the earth
and vultures hovered over a pack
of jackals that found a mound of corpses,
and a billion glittering seeds fluted through the hollows.
I closed my eyes until nothing was left,
but a voice sweeping over bone.
In the morning, as my brother gathered his armies,
I raised the dust of ancestors—
plunged deeper and deeper into the desert.