Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Akedah

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for my daughter

i. isaac

A piece of paper, court of law,
and you were bound to us.

Isaac, bound by ignorance,
gathered kindling in the bush. You

stand stiff, a cement wall,
weeping. Days

you disappear,
a shrieking lion

tattooed on your arm. When
Isaac asked, Abraham

lied. You say
you trust no one.

ii. unto the next generation: esau

Tricked by a brother, betrayed
by a mother. Like Esau, you rage at

the loss of your birthright. Your
people, your

tribe, your
brothers, sisters, all torn

from you. Merciless,
these tests, merciless,

your welcome to this cold cold world.
You bring strangers to our table, pale girls, cheeks

imprinted with the fists of their fathers,
what uses the gods make of children.

iii. isaac

Some say Isaac required no binding, laid himself
on the altar, bared his neck to his father's blade.

What binds us one to another? When you are ill,
you cry for me; mostly, you

shut your door. What
binds us?

You steal what you can—
money, your father's

watch, it's always time
to pay you back.

Isaac didn't choose his sacrifice.
Abraham didn't choose.

iv. ishmael

Born to the wrong woman, Ishmael,
according to Torah, was cast out into the wilderness, but

there are other books. The woman
who birthed you

also sacrificed.
Hagar, helpless, turned away

when Ishmael was cast out,
did he not hunger for his brother?

Do I not bathe your fevered cheek?
You are just strangers I grew up with.

Each of us, the blade, both
our necks, bare
to ruthless winds.

Joan Manheimer is a poet and psychologist working in Denver, Colorado. She has had work published in Calyx, Adanna, and Palimpsest, among others.

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