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Genesis Twenty-Two

Janet Kuypers

Living in this desert land is never easy,
but the middle east is all I’ve ever known.

And I want to do everything I can
for me and my wife and my only son,

but the only dictator who has ruled
over us all — for all my life and longer —

is so tyrannical, so torturous, even
when I have never done anything wrong.

I know of how once, many years ago,
he let the entire land flood, destroying

almost everyone, and more recently
he even destroyed an entire city

not far from here — I heard this
from a few who have survived his wrath.

This is why I try to do everything I can
to stay in our dictator’s favour —

even when his demands seem so absurd,
and you still have no choice but to comply.

Recently, a few of his goose-stepping
storm trooper henchmen approached me

and I was afraid of what they were going
to say to me, or what they would do to me.

But they came to me like angels at first,
saying there was only one thing

the dictator asked me to do, and if I did
this, then me and my wife would remain

in the dictator’s favor. “These are the words
from the dictator himself,” these “angels”

said to me, so I eagerly asked what
my dictator wanted me to do.

Now, I always thought this dictator
was ludicrous, but when his henchmen

told me that to win his favour I had to kill
my only son, I thought this had to be a joke.

But the “angels’” expressions never changed,
so I understood that in order for us to live

my son, at my own hand, must die.

Now, you may hear this story and think
of the cruelty of this murderous act —

but no one thinks of the suffering
I had to go through, to make the decision

that me and my wife may have salvation
from the wrath of this eternal dictator

as long as I committed this one truly
inhumane act, the one thing a father

would never, ever want to do. This tortured
me, this tormented me, but I knew

this was the only thing I could ever do.
The dictator even showed me a place

that was far away, so no one would know
of the barbarous act I committed to my

only son. So a few days later I asked
my son to come with me while I made

an offering, so we could be at peace.
And my son was happy to come with me,

‘oh, how I love him so, I still cannot believe
I am actually going to do this,’ is all

I could think as I was preparing myself
to kill my only son, my flesh, my blood.

And when we got to the farther mountain
and saw a clearing for the offering,

my son even asked what we were going
to be offering. And although it broke

my heart, I took a rope and bound
my only son, and when he was restrained

I grabbed a large knife I brought along,
and when I lifted that knife up high —

that is when I heard the henchmen
come to the clearing to say stop.

They said unto me, “Lay not thine hand upon
the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him.”*

They knew I would do this one heinous act,
and they said that our dictator was pleased

that I feared him so much, so deeply,
that I was willing to kill my only son.

Yes, this is the story of how the people
who are good to our leader, how we

can still be tormented this way. Am I
now in his favour because little old me

was willing to be as heinous as he?
That I would destroy life, derived from me?

This is what I battle in my mind now,
every day. It makes me wonder

what I’m truly willing to do, to be —
with any attempt, to try to be free.


* Quote from Genesis, chapter 22, the Holy Bible.

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