The Topic At Hand: Seconds

In one retelling, the angel comes too late
and Isaac suffers the blade on the altar.
In another, he descends three days after,
born new in ash.  Or was it Ishmael, white
robed and copper skinned, almost to Abraham’s height
when kneeling, true favorite son, who filtered
faith through shame?  Sand in his eyes, who watched his father’s
hand midair, unsheathed, then God’s brusque tone, Wait?
See them gather at their father’s tomb, each grieving
son hero in rival histories.  One still smells
ram burning in his place; one recalls the bending
finger beckoning; one remembers breathing
hot cinders.  Crowd of kings, not touching, as bells
toll.  In the middle of each story, this ending.

——

[Publisher’s note: Shortly after this poem first appeared on Revolving Floor, Joy Walden of KBPR Radio read it on her Comfort And Joy show, which comes on Sundays at 10AM Arizona time, and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 9 pm. Listen to the audio below.]

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    • The parallel stories of the multiple Isaacs makes me think of all the “rebooting” going on in TV and movies these days. Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, and, in a different way, James Bond and Doctor Who, all follow this pattern of re-presenting a hero in ways that will make him seem more palatable… but of course, “reboot” is itself just a modern way of making that very process, ancient as it is, easier to understand for modern audiences. I just came from a reading where Susan Orlean was talking about the many incarnations of Rin-Tin-Tin, fictional and otherwise, and how the public maintained an idea of a sort of continuity of character, even though both the real dogs and the fictional dogs could not logically have that continuity.

      With this poem, we have a sort of aesthetic synthesis of such parallel stories, which is, after all, what's going on in the collective readers' mind, if not in the mind of a single sophisticated reader, who is capable of absorbing all three versions of the myth and regarding them as non-contradictory facets of the same object. The fact that the story in question deals with death and rebirth (actual or virtual) makes it work at a whole other level as well.

    The Author

    Amy Meckler

    amy.meckler
    Amy Meckler received her MFA in creative writing from Hunter College, where she garnered the Academy of American Poets Award, among other honors. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. Her first collection, What All the Sleeping Is For, won the 2002 Defined Providence Press Poetry Book Award and was published that year. She works in New York City as a Sign Language interpreter. Amy also blogs at You Have Spinach In Your Teeth. She is also the Poetry Editor for Revolving Floor. See all of Amy's Revolving Floor contributions.

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