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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Prose Poem: 253 words
By Jeff Friedman

Ram in the Thicket


While the ram hid in the thicket, Abraham built an altar and mounded on it the bundle of sticks and twigs gathered by his son. He bound Isaac and laid him on the kindling. Afraid to move or make a sound, the ram kept low, out of sight, he thought. Abraham said a prayer and lifted his knife. The ram may not have understood the prayer, but he knew the meaning of the drawn knife, the blade blinking in the light. For a moment, nothing moved, not the ram, not the father’s arm and not the son, who stared at the knife as if it were some foreign god. Then Abraham’s face tightened as he willed himself to strike, but the muscles in his arm clenched and wouldn’t move. He raised his head to the sky and appeared to be talking to someone, though no one else was there—no angel, no godly being, only particles of dust. Then Abraham nodded his head as though obeying an order and slowly lowered the knife to his side, loosening his grip. Rising from the altar, Isaac’s body trembled. He offered his own prayer to the sun and the dust, thankful he had not become the burnt offering, thankful that God had saved him from his own father. Still he knew there would be a sacrifice. And the ram let out a sigh and was revealed, and the shrub where he was hiding shook a little as though touched by the wind.

Jeff Friedman’s
Issue 9, August 2021

eighth book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press (publisher of five of his other collections). He is also author of Floating Tales (Plume Editions/MadHat Press, 2017). With Meg Pokrass, Friedman has co-written a collection of fabulist microfictions which is forthcoming from Pelekinesis Press in March 2022.

His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry; Agni Online; American Poetry Review; Fiction International; Flash Fiction Funny; Flash Nonfiction Funny; Hotel Amerika; Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; New England Review; Poetry; Poetry International; Smokelong Quarterly; The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets; The New Republic; The Vestal Review; and numerous other literary magazines and anthologies.

Friedman’s co-translation with Dzvinia Orlowsky of Memorials: A Selection by Polish poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014, and the two translators were awarded a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016. Nati Zohar’s and Friedman’s book of translations, Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016.

Among numerous awards and prizes, Friedman has received a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council. Two of his micro-stories were recently selected for the Best Microfiction 2021 anthology.


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