Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Yahya Frederickson: Sacrifice

 for Sameer

No better place to slaughter than your bathroom.
After Eid prayer, you rented the young butcher,
knives and all. Now, his skirted knee is poised
on the sheep’s shoulder. Bismillah, and the blade
will dissolve flesh. As he cups the sheep’s muzzle,
exposing its long, soft neck, for just a moment
I don’t believe in death.

But the lurch of blood comes, the spastic
hooves skittering to silence. Blood coils, lugubrious,
across the pink-tiled floor, fading down the drain.
I remember your stories about Hama, your hometown
until your president shredded it like a stomach:
50,000 citizens disappeared into the tan earth.
I hear so little news.

He works methodically, dismantling the legs,
spreading the rib cage open to reveal organs
dangling like glass ornaments. He rinses the intestines,
twines them between his square hands.
Your own son is a knife: al-Muhannad,
the Prophet’s strong Indian sword. When he grows up,
what will he strike? How will he sound?

During nightly power outages, you offer food:
cold kibbeh, salad flashing with onion and mint,
Turkish coffee. You stand a candle into the drop
of wax on the tabletop, echo ‘Antara and Poe
through your apartment’s barren corridor.
When your wife left through it, her heels cursed in code.
For such reasons, I never memorize poems.

The butcher boy gets paid in brains and hide.
We divvy the meat: one sack for neighbors,
one for the poor whose knuckles test
the patience of doors, and one for ourselves.
What we give we’ll regain, we believe.
Your son will visit. You will remarry.
Every severed nerve will explain.


From In a Homeland Not Far: New & Selected Poems (Press 53). Copyright  2017.

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Photo from A Man and his Meat: A Guide to Butchering Sheep

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