A Cross to Be Borne

I awoke to my father’s loving hand,
and his rough fingers stroking through my hair,
and I could hear him saying, “Here I am,
Lord, here I am.” And then I saw him there.
Outside, the sun was muted. I heard sand
drizzling lightly on the cloth of the tent.
My father’s eyes were quiet, and he stared
into my face as if he were intent
on something else. “Wake up,” he said. “Prepare
a mule for travel. I will get the men.”

I nodded. I got up and went to work.
I heard my father whispering to the men,
and the early morning mewling of the herd.
My mother was still sleeping in her tent.
We met outside the camp without a word.
They’d gathered wood and left it in a pile,
and now they packed it on the mule. The men
were glancing at each other, and they smiled
at me as if I’d fallen ill. But when
I smiled back, they turned back to the mule.

We left the camp. My father walked ahead,
the two men and the mule and I behind;
and as we traveled, not a word was said,
though I had many questions in my mind,
staring at the back of my father’s head.
Three days we walked beneath the blinding sun,
sand and sweat in our eyes, and all the time
my father’s back receding farther on.
He stopped at last. “Father,” I started, “I’m…”
And then he answered, “Here I am, my son,

here I am.” And he told the men to stand
with the mule till our return, and pointed out
a mountain in the distance through the sand,
and all of them looked grimly at the mount.
He gave the wood to me. He didn’t speak.
He grabbed a knife and took a torch in hand,
and silently, we set off towards the peak.
Then I said, “Father, but we have no lamb.

So what are we supposed to sacrifice?”
My father looked up at the looming hill,
and then at me: “My son, God will provide.”
We reached the top and looked from where we stood
over all the desert. There, my father built
an altar to the Lord, and placed the wood.

Then he embraced me and began to wind
a cloth around my arms and I could feel
his beard and breath. Speechless, he wrapped my mouth,
my eyes, so layer by layer I grew more blind,

but in the distance I could hear a ram,
and a voice calling, “Abraham, Abraham,”

and now my father weeping, “Here I am!”

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