Isaac and Ishmael
Sarai, laughing, has hurt Yahweh’s feelings.
What? I who groan in age am now to groan in pleasure, and bear a son? Who’s kidding whom?
Who is that laughing? says Yahweh. Who thinks I cannot do this thing?
Not I. Her eyes on the ground. Then sideways she sees her husband whose eyes are fixed on the boldest stranger, who sits eating veal and drinking milk under their olive trees. Abram holds his breath. The stranger has just said to him, Count the stars. Can you? Your descendants shall be more. The two men with him are silent, their eyes glitter, their arms like wings tucked at their sides even as they eat.
I’ll be back in nine months, says the stranger, to see your son.
Watch: they wrestle in the tent on the warm skins of calves. Under woven cloth, worn hands caress dry flesh, thin lips press to cheeks once smooth, once firm, still loved.
A deep well of laughter shakes her, a joy not to be named. Her foolish husband thinks this is how it must be done. She felt the dart of light hit her womb when the stranger spoke.
Abram groans bringing forth his last drop of seed, wrung out of him as women twist wet clothes at the river to hurry the drying. He doesn’t think he has been able to thrust far enough, and yet, Yahweh said it.
// 1 //
Down in the flats of the land, Sarah old for a wife, old for a mother.
Now look: she goes to the opening in the tent, turns her face up to the hills as if she could see the two of them with her own eyes, man and boy. Father and son. Both the same, foolish. Yahweh sends me to the hills to make an offering, holocaust, he has told her. Her heart sickens and she is afraid because she has seen his eyes, black, hollow. But she does not forget the great wonder of her son Isaac, gift of Yahweh in her old age, for her and for Abraham, and the promise of the Blessing.
Sarah looks one more time, the sun is setting, too dark to see far. She goes back inside the tent, closes the flap. She knows what the curved knife is for, and she fears the worst.