The Lives of Isaac

The Lives of Isaac

I was born a Jew
who could sell a riddle
to the sphinx. In my mouth
nouns married adjectives
and entered the world
as a sales pitch–
a quick hard sell,
offer driven,
Big Value for a Buck.
I had fleshy features,
small sturdy hands
and sawed-off white teeth
that could tear small
pieces of meat easily.
I carried no insurance
and died eating.
Then I was born a dog
who lived off scraps
and sniffed the messages
the wind delivered.
Each time I stole
from my master
my tail betrayed me.
When the herds dwindled to wind
and the tents collapsed
like a city of matchsticks
I ran with jackals
warning off intruders
with low deep growls
as we ripped apart carrion
and snapped flies
from the dust-laden air.
Before I was 20,
my heart gave out.
Then I was born a laugh
and came out of a parched orifice.
I died in mid-air.
And I was born a mixed blessing.
My sighs grew persistent
over the years
like a cramp in the intestines.
My face grew pinched,
my mouth distended
around an endless vowel.
I passed away in sleep.
Then I was born 2 dice
rolling across pavement.
I came out snake eyes.
I came out a bad decision.
I was born an invisible bird
that nested in the chest
of a prophet
and flew out of his mouth
in guttural ejaculations,
aiming for the eyes of his enemies.
I broke down into molecules,
into atoms, into electrons
spinning out of control,
shot down a racetrack–
broke down into quarks.
And then I was born a desert,
a promise never fulfilled.
My tongue thickened.
My mother sacrificed herself
again and again
while the soup boiled.
My father laid me out
on a table, brandishing his blade.
He lifted the knife
above his head and I
could see the sincerity
in his dark brown eyes.
And so I lived on
as words live,
blocks of print
on parchment.
My mother conceived me
well into her 70s
and on the night of my birth
the star of my kingdom
lit up the heavens.
With each telling
I grow stronger.