Midrash on an Italian Stiletto

It began in tears and the rending of veils
Hagar twice exiled from her master’s house
once by choice and once by force;
women working God’s unspoken word –
as Lilith must have, mating with demons.
“Let me not see the death of the child”
she cried, and God
did not hear her;
a male infant’s wailing
was more audible, even then.
That Issac might lie on his altar
and disprove the whisper of Satan
he made a spring seep up
out of the sand
for the mother of the archer
to suckle, and so it is said
succour the ancestor of Mohammed.

And so Abraham argued with Abimelech
about that miraculous water
which he claimed he had dug
as he was of the line of Shem.
Eventually in the way that men
solve their arguments
with strange bargains of flesh,
they were reconciled
and Abraham returned
to his son
who was old enough to speak
by now, and to carry wood.

Isaac only asked once,
as he walked with his father
to the sacred place at the top
of the mountain;
“Where is the lamb for a burnt offering”
(Why is this day not like other days?)

Instead of explaining
this bitter herb,
his father said
“God will provide.”

The child might have wept
bound hand and foot
or perhaps he was good
because he knew the secret:
that the young men
tending the ass
would return him
to his father if he fled,
would bind his mouth
if he cried out.

And then as the knife fell
the Lord’s sudden reprieve.

Was this dagger also
by the subtle hand
of providence?

This doubledged blade
with a bone
carving of a man upside-down
and beautifully fettered —
a face the carver’s finest chisel licked
from an elk’s ankle or perhaps a cow’s,
the miniature limbs like blades
of grass dessicated in a drought.

Its shape against the blind palm in the dark
must have hurt,
like a knobbly chunk of volcanic
rock, or a frail infant’s wrist,
hand salient against a ground argent
become a thing like this
turned over in another’s hand,
the instrument to an end.

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