After he takes out his silver clip of 20 sawbucks and tosses it on the table, my father snoozes on the couch, dreams made of Scotch.
My mother slaps the iron with her palm to hear it hiss, presses his white shirts. "He’s tired," she says, "leave him be."
Then she sips black coffee as she watches the stove. the soup boiling on the burner, lid shaking and shimmying.
I put my hand on my father’s forehead, the dark clouds of stubble and sweat under his eyelids like the smell of wet leaves.
Acorns drop on his new Buick. Automatic car windows go up and down. Sycamores open their leaves,
I step inside my father’s dream and listen: "We’ll be so rich we’ll live in a hotel, we’ll be so rich…"
I was beauty, leading you down into a secret canal, your arms rowing toward me.
She was the mirror where you imagined a kingdom, the treacherous face, the eyes that claimed you.
I passed through at night, a long kiss, a shiver. She held you, a locked jaw, a knock in the ribs, gnashing teeth,
bitter lips, the call to come now, as jackals circled the fires. I knelt at a dry well. She knelt at your feet,
urging you to lie down, to try again. Above, tribes of stars waited. Dust took my hand, whispered to me.
She was a wound bleeding into your hands. My son roamed the desert, aimed
his arrows, killing what he could. Her son died a thousand times. She wanted the future. I wanted you.
– – –
"The Way Forward…"
Today Abel had a question for God: Did he need to speak for God to hear him? He fell in the streets of Baghdad, his body torn apart. Today Cain lifted his head in prayer. This time God would accept his offering, the smell of charred flesh sweetening the air of heaven. He raised his fist, declared a victory for the fallen.
Jeff Friedman’s fourth collection of poetry, Black Threads, has recently been published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. His poems and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, New England Review, Literary Imagination, Agni Online, North American Review, Great River Review, Maggid, and The New Republic. He is a core faculty member in the M.F.A. program in Poetry Writing at New England College.
Art: Ur House of Abrahamby The Outback Traveler.