Carry this wood for me son,
On your back, a burden
For I am so old now, born down
By Time and though I can still walk,
Yet my back permanently is stooped
And I cannot carry the weight of my youth.
Come my son, we have far to walk
And my footsteps have shrunk and fall
In the creases of your large strides.
Across the blighted terrain we must journey
Into the day and through the night
Until we reach the mountain’s crowning.
There we will burn a lamb (hush son
Don’t ask where the creature is now, anon
All will be revealed) innocent
As the day’s breaking of night
So that our sons and their son’s sons
Will spread across this empty planet.
…And here is the punch in my guts
I feel when I read this ancient text —
What did the son feel? oh we know about Abraham,
How he withstood the test
Ready to burn his only son at God’s behest —
But it’s the child’s mind I wonder about…
How must it have been…laying there
On that pile of gathered wood (that he himself had carried –
And here think of that other son and his carried wood)?
Wood drenched with a flammable liquid,
The father with a lighted torch, madness in Abraham’s eyes
For surely the test would bring us to that point —
What did Isaac think of God
As he lay upon his back
On the wood stack, the torch already alight,
The fire ready to leap across the gap;
What did he think of his father, Abraham,
Of himself cast as sacrificial lamb?
And did Isaac ever forgive—is it possible to have a choice,
Can a son can forgive his father
When his father listened to The Voice;
Took the son to the mountain peak
And prepared to set the son’s flesh to burn,
In the name of faith, a sacrifice?
Now imagine the tears shed on that walk home
Flowing freely down the crevasses of ancient Abraham—
He understood the damage done,
The reverberation to be felt through all the centuries;
Fathers and sons ceaselessly engaged
In the conflict between the lamb and the beast.
And this brings me to my point—
Nations make the same selection
And we call it war
The god of our nations, calling us to send
Our uniformed and lumbered children out into the world
And sacrifice them for the common good.
Abraham must surely have known
What his actions had set in motion;
And Isaac, was he filled now with an unexplainable angst,
A desire to lose the lamb and become a wolf,
Rend the father limb from limb
And replace the old order with the new?
Then there is the mother, left behind,
(And all this time it is still an immoveable fact),
Standing there at the opened door,
Her eyes drained from the day spent
Staring into a distance greater
Than any male god ever understood.
And in that face I see Mary
As Christ carried his wood
And the face of every mother
As their son marches off to war,
Lambs all of them caught in the fates
Of the old men’s making.
In that face I see my mother,
Standing as she so often did;
Her hands crinkling the venetian blinds,
Her teary eyes staring out
Into the darkest of night, waiting for her son
To return safely home once again.