Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poem of the Day: “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” by Carolyn Martin, Poet of the Week.  A brief biography of the poet may be found here:

Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering
Carolyn Martin

It well behooves the son of Abraham
to understand the voice his father hears.
My mother learned this long ago:
that Yahweh’s laugh is always last and bears
more gifts than hearts can hold.

“Heaven has its humor,” so she claims,
and speaks again the laughter of my name.

“To worship,” was his ploy – that strong old man.
With men and donkey left a sight behind,
and ram nor thicket in our point of view,
we started on our holocaustal climb
to pay my father’s Lord his chosen due.

Naiveté is a blessing on such days.
It watched him altar wood with fire and grace,
missed the trembling in his chosen hands,
the sighing in his old man’s chosen face.
It saw the sun caress his blazing knife
and heard a voice call for the sacrifice.

“Heaven has its humor,” so they say.
(The angels laughed at last in father’s eyes.)
But still I try to grasp that chosen day,
to wash the smell of rams out of my mind,
to see the joke in flames that I survived.

“A test,” is all my father ever says.
Inside our tent my mother laughs my name.
They hold the stars and sands as their rewards.
But I, I cannot laugh. I fear unchosen fame
and the presents of my parents’ laughing Lord.

Poet’s Notes:  As a young nun and new poet in the early 70s, I tasked myself with rewriting biblical stories from a woman’s point of view. The story of Sarah and Abraham was my first successful attempt. I loved the scene where Sarah laughs in her tent when she overhears three messengers tell Abraham that he and she are going to have a child. And, I was tickled by the fact that their son Isaac was given a name that in Hebrew sounds like laughter.

This led me to “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering.” To prove his faithfulness to God, Abraham is commanded to take his only son up a mountainside and sacrifice him. While Abraham is lauded for his obedience in following these instructions, I wondered how Isaac felt about God and his father. This poem written in his voice is no laughing matter.

After reading  “Isaac” at a local temple a few years ago, a man well versed in Hebrew Scriptures informed me that, after that mountain trek, Isaac never spoke to his father again.

Editor’s Note:  This is an interesting take on the old story from the POV of Isaac.  Martin’s plays on the Hebrew meaning of Isaac's name--mocking, joyous, ironic, bitter--are well done.  “Isaac: Chapters One to Wondering” was first published in Sisters Today, 1975.

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