Book Tour: A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent

I had the honor of speaking to the Emmaus group at St. Patrick’s church in Huntington this evening. They are a wonderful group of people, led by excellent teacher Anthony Marinelli, committed to the study of scripture and vibrant discussions of faith. My reading there was part of a Spring book tour I am giving to celebrate the launch of my new book, A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent, published by Wiseblood Books.

Wiseblood, which is “wide-eyed for new epiphanies of beauty” is a press rooted in the Catholic literary tradition of Flannery O’Connor, thus, the very name of the press takes its name from what is, arguably, O’Connor’s most famous novel.

I am delighted to have my work associated with such a fine press, one that “finds redemption in uncanny places and people; wrestle us from the tyranny of boredom; mock the pretensions of respectability; engage the hidden mysteries of the human heart, be they sources of either violence or courage; articulate faith and doubt in their incarnate complexity; dare an unflinching gaze at human beings as &lsqup;political animals’; and suffer through this world’s trials without forfeiting hope.” A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent, published by Wiseblood contains a large number of poems written as what I call “Dramatic Monologue meets Midrash.”

It was wonderful to share these poems with the Emmaus group. One of their favorites I will post here: “The Sacrifice (Abraham and Isaac)” along with Caravaggio’s “The Sacrifice of Isaac”, and awesome music apropos of this subject by Anais Mitchell.

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Anais Mitchell - Dyin Day

The Binding of Isaac- Caravaggio
The Binding of Isaac- Caravaggio

The Sacrifice

Then God said, ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’” (Gen 22:2)

“Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife…When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham…Do not lay your hand on the boy…Do not do the least thing to him. I know how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your beloved son.’” (Gen 2:6, 9-12)

I. Abraham Addresses God

You knew I would withhold nothing from you.
Why would you ask for me to kill my son?
What if he was your boy? What would you do?
Have you ever known pain? For I’ve begun
to question why you’d test me that way. He
was young, my only child, asked me where
we’d find the sheep to slay. He trusted me.
I still have dreams at night about my prayer—
to you—as I bound Isaac, as he cried—
I told you he was yours to take. I’d raised
that child—and now raised my knife. Provide
me with a reason. Was I numb? Or crazed?
I know your angel stopped me, God, but why
ask me to kill to prove that I’d comply?

II. God Answers Abraham

It is not disrespect to question me.
I saw the way that Sarah looked at you
when Isaac told her God had set him free.
She wondered if you would have followed through—
and killed her boy. But just as I gave birth
to Isaac with her help, I gave him life
again—through sparing him I taught the earth:
I don’t want children carried to the knife.
Your Isaac bore the sacrificial wood
upon his back. But one day, Abraham,
I’ll know your pain. On that day I’ll make good—
I’ll give my sacrifice for you—my lamb;
carry, like wood, the pain that Isaac knew—
give what I wouldn’t take away from you.

—Annabelle Moseley
from A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette’s Ascent