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Ruth Kessler-

The Sacrifice
And Abraham put forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son
(Genesis 22,10)

So many questions unanswered
(even the ass’s)
So many screams
stifled
(even the knife’s)
So many silences

That story left
mostly untold Its
jealousy’s terrible flowering
glimpsed through the door of
religion left only slightly
ajar

And The Father
who unbound
one child
Only to tether His others to
bear His implacable burden
till the end of all days

_______________

flower*
Tamar

this dark stain
that will not be blotted –
the dried blood
of a maid’s tarnished honor.

this diminutive height,
downcast gaze,
this disgrace.

Whose cruel joke was it
to wed his iniquity and my infamy
in such lovely, love-
less bloom?

stitch my name to his.
No, nail.

*In Hebrew the name for pansy is Amnon v’Tamar – after King David’s oldest son and the half-sister he raped.

_______________

Suburban

Summer night: cats in
heat, droning chorus of cicadas,
the moon – our dream-hook dangling

from someone else’s heaven.
Behind lit windows neighbors toss away
the crumpled day’s remains, readying

to unfold the fresh morning of tomorrow.
(Only very few press out the passing day,
carefully caress its creases, cherish).

Under the callous gaze of stars the street
curves like a horseshoe seeking luck,
studded with silent, taciturn houses.

The trees, black-uniformed keepers of birds’ sleep,
stand stiff, capped with hazy haloes.
How scrupulously the eerie lawn-lights guard

the still-life of prim gardens
against August’s wanton conquest!
A bat swiftly swoops and

circles, swoops and circles, spinning
an opaque web of solitude.
Only in the distance a train’s sudden

whistle rushes through the
darkness into our careful lives:
a messenger from Elsewhere,

an arrowhead of secret
yearning, a fleeting echo of an
errant heartbeat.

_______________

May

Sky, smeared with careless scarlets and crimsons.
Sea, dappled with dusky dazzle.

And a young, cloud-hatted couple
carrying their future boldly between them –
like the magnificent cluster of grapes borne aloft
by Joshua’s spies from
the Promised Land.

_______________

Ars Poetica
Reason not the need
Shakespeare, King Lear

You reasoned the need:
would banish all weeds from that garden,
subject all irregular growth
to the shears of perfect necessity.

As if poetry was not about life –
meaning irrelevancies,
meaning rules constantly broken;
daring us daily to sift
through the rubble,
paste order from its debris.
Life –
whose business card is imprinted not
with the consequential idea,
the relevant metaphor,
but the but’s and although’s,
repetitions, digressions, silences,
the yawns between cannon bolts.
Life –
that sagging tissue that holds the skeleton together.

You insisted on efficiently planned expeditions:
always choosing the highway – clear signs, good maintenance.
Not meandering side roads with
their unruly clumps of unnamable grasses and
small songs of obscure birds leading, like
the heart’s undisciplined ramblings, to
strange destinations where
children and fools gather at dusk
to do nothing.
But dream.

You believed the poem
should matter like flag –
meaningful and precise
on its upright pole.

But
have
you
ever
closed
your
eyes –
listened
to
the
mysterious
music
the
wind
makes
rippling
randomly
in
the
pliable
cloth?

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RUTH KESSLER grew up in Poland and Israel. Her publications include Fire Ashes Wings (poems giving voice to women in myths and the arts), and over sixty poems in journals and anthologies, several of which won special distinctions. Her full-length manuscript has been a finalist and semi-finalist in several book contests. A poem was made into a limited-edition artist book, and three poems were set to music and performed as a choral composition. Awards include Individual NYSCA grants and Yaddo, MacDowell, VCCA, VSC, and Saltonstall fellowships. She was invited as a guest poet to the Women in Music Festival and Women and Poetry Festival. She lives in NYC.

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