The Beauty of the Sacrifice

After Rembrandt

Before God’s voice punctured the clouds
like a paring knife pitting a pomegranate,

before the bleating ram appeared with its arced horn
divine and white as moonstone, there was nothing

but the father binding the son on an altar
of desert stones, the boy’s wrists tethered

by hemp rope, the father weeping like a madman
as the bone scythe trembled in hands that had slaughtered

only the tribe goats with their ugly, horizontal eyes.
But his son would not bleat – Abraham was sure of that,

his palm hard against Isaac’s face as if pressing
unleavened bread into a woven basket,

and what of Isaac’s nakedness, the rough hewn
valley of his abdomen, his biceps strong

and rounded like the shoulders of an ox?
Blade raised, did Abraham think of the beauty

of this man, his son now strong from a lifetime
of herding? How long did Abraham look

at his son’s flesh, smooth as a still river, before
deciding on an entry point? The heart or lower

into the taut belly, or the throat with its tributaries
of veins? All this he considered before God spoke

of salvation. But by then the damage was done:

for the next five thousand years the fields
would glisten with the blood of beautiful sons.


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About Author


Joshua Martin is a PhD student in poetry at Georgia State University. He has published or has poems forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly,Salamander,Crab Orchard Review, Nashville Review, Raleigh Review, Tupelo Quarterly, The Cortland Review, The Florida Review Online, Borderlands: The Texas Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He was a finalist in the 2015 Jacar Press Chapbook Contest, the 2016 Coal Hill Chapbook Contest, the 2016 Nazim Hikmet Contest, and the 2017 Tupelo Quarterly Contest. He was recently awarded a fellowship to the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.

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