This is the story of Isaac…
And what a story it is, the poor guy. He marries at 40 and his young beautiful wife can’t conceive. After pleading with God, Rebecca becomes pregnant with twins – who immediately start to kick up a storm with each other in utero. Not a good sign of things to come — the boys, Esau & Jacob, have a nasty case of sibling rivalry that lasts well into their young adult years. Not only that, but Isaac favors Esau while Rebecca (and God) favors Jacob. It’s a hell of a story: Jacob trades his brother’s birthright for a bowl of lentils and and subsequently enters into a conspiracy with his mother to steal the dying patriarch’s final blessing. Soap opera deluxe.
Lots of dualism here. Infertility and conception. Fighting twins. One red and hairy child, the other… not. A man of the outdoors versus a man of the camp. Blatant parental favoritism. Husband-wife deceptions and disagreements. Many broken hearts.
This week’s poem is a riff on the issue of separateness and attachment. It was written in 2003, shortly after the deaths of conjoined twins Laleh and Ladan Bijani. They died in the middle of a controversial and complicated surgery to untangle their attached heads. The surgery was their fondest dream – they were tired, after 29 years, of being unable to be alone.
I am going to brag a bit here and tell you that this poem, “Elegy With Reference to Our Conflicting Desires”, won the 2006 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize sponsored by Cutthroat Magazine, a cool little publication you should check out.