Chayay Sarah with Apologies to Victorian Poet Robert Browning

Scene: A desert caravan, led by Eliezer, Avraham’s Chief Manservant. He addresses a fellow-traveler whom they met on the way.

[With apologies to Victorian poet Robert Browning (1812-1889), “Fra Lippo Lippi” (1853)]

I’m Avram’s servant, ‘Layzer, by your leave!
You may not recognize my bearded face—
But I am he whom Avram of Charan
Sent eastward, homeward, to his native land
To fetch therefrom a beauteous maiden for
His son and heir: young Isaac. Avram’s wife?
Old Sarah? Late my mistress—Sir, she’s gone:
Poor woman! When my master lost his mind
And seized his son, his only son, to kill
And sacrifice him there on Horeb’s rocks
To He-Who-Is, the God he’s never seen
(Mistake me not: I honor Him, as well
As all the gods I’ve ever met in life,
And I have met a few) O Sir!
The shock of hearing news about her boy
In Avram’s hands—the son for whom they’d yearned—
It killed her, Sir; plain killed her. Now, you see,
The two of them—old Avram, and young Ike
(For so we call young Master, ‘hind his back)
Are living in the ruin of a tent
With dirty dishes, gnawed bones, wormy loaves,
Themselves unwashed, clothes needing laundering—
Far more than any man (like me) can cope,
And serving-maiden Hagar long expelled
At Mistress Sarah’s word. I tell you, Sir,
I hope that He-Who-Is will bless my trip
And send a girl both bright and capable
To straighten out the near-unearthly mess
That Father Abe (my name for him) is in.
A plan? A shidduch? Well, harken here:
I am a man of action, not of words,
And romance is not in my line of work,
But reckon Avram’s God is in control:
Let any Aramean maiden come
And offer water to my beasts and me—
The first who does, is God’s intended bride
For Isaac—her I’ll bring—God save the rest!

David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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