Recipient of the Burning Bush Poetry Prize for 2009
What the Angel Really Said
But the angel of the Lord called to him from
heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your
hand on the boy or do anything to him; for
now I know that you fear God, since you have
not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
—The Book of Genesis
Abraham, this is a test!
This is only a test
For God’s sake, put down that knife!
Untie that child!
Abraham, what in the world were you thinking?
Abraham, what in the world were you doing?
With all due respect, Abie baby,
what are you, nuts?
Honest Abe, did you really think
our Father of Fathers,
The Holy One, Blessed Be He
our Lord and Master,
King of the Universe,
Ruler of the Heavens,
The Grand Poobah
The Big Cheese
et cetera et cetera
would tell you to take a hike
bring the kid up a mountain
lash him to a pile of wood
raise your knife overhead
and like a lunatic
slit his throat from ear to ear?
You gotta be kidding me, Abraham.
You mean to tell me you really fear God
more than the wrath of your own wife
Sarah, who wandered through the desert
of her own barrenness for ninety years
before bearing the bouncing baby boy
who made her laugh with such delight?
What kind of man are you anyway?
If you can’t think of your son, Abraham,
and you can’t think of your wife, Abraham,
then think of yourself, Abraham,
and the fate that awaits you
when you arrive on Sarah’s doorstep
bearing the limp, lifeless body of her baby
boy in your helpless, hapless arms.
Listen Abraham, I’m warning you
unless you loosen the ties that bind
right this very minute I’m going to declare
you an unfit parent.
I’m going to call the authorities
who are going to call
the Department of Social Services.
The boy is sure to get lost
in the foster care system
and then may God have mercy upon him.
Already he’s going to spend
the next two hundred years
in therapy kvetching about his father
the meshugeneh who tried to kill him
because he loved some God
he had never seen
more than he loved his own flesh and blood.
Talk about post traumatic stress disorder.
Abraham, pay attention!
I know and you know
and even little Isaac knows
that you were given a test
and you failed it miserably.
Let’s forget all about it now, shall we?
Just put down the knife,
untie the child,
and do us all a favor.
Turn around and go home, old man.
Spare the ram and spoil the Torah.
Let the killing of God’s innocent creatures
stop right now before it begins.
© All Rights Reserved by the Author
"What the Angel Really Said" first appeared in NOBODY'S MOTHER by Lesléa Newman.
Orchard House Press, 1st edition, 2008
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lesléa Newman is the author of 57 books for adults and children, including the poetry collections,
STILL LIFE WITH BUDDY, NOBODY'S MOTHER, and SIGNS OF LOVE. Her literary awards include
poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.
Current, she is the poet laureate of Northampton, MA. Website: www.lesleanewman.com