No. 6


Jeff Friedman  


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.




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