Family Tree

They say Satan teased Sarah while
her husband tied their son up on a mountain.
It's an old story: a man tests the limits of religion
while the devil’s on a mission to a woman.

The devil said He's dead! Oh wait! He's not!
Sarah heard a gunshot
and did the only thing she could.
She reached beyond herself and died.

Meanwhile Isaac sees a frenzy
on the face of a patriarch,
and an angel's screaming out a name
and everything's going dark. Afterwards,

they never spoke again. One went
his way and the other went another.
Isaac's mother dead, he followed Hagar
to the desert. Hagar married Abraham

but Isaac stayed away, didn't even send a
text. He pulled the blinds down, tried to rest.
Then his father died, so God blessed Isaac, Isaac
never quite recovered from the loss.

Then Rebecca came along and saw it all.
She'd studied Freud, so knew her boys would
tell stories that their father couldn't bear.
She tore her hair out, then devised a plan.


But even she was foiled; her boys grew up.
Her boys forgot the fights of childhood, spat out
bitter herbs, and limped towards each other
when the Angel settled down at last.

There may not be a God or a Sarah.
There may not be a garden or a man who
ordered soup up to his room.
There may not be a mountain.

But there’s always been a woman with the truth.
But there's always been a brother full of shame.
There’s always been a story, and there’s
always been a devil in the details.


“Family Tree” Originally published in Seminary Ridge Review. Copyright © 2017 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.