Bread of Affliction – Ira Schaeffer

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I had my fill of Seders:
the bitter herbs, the mock
saltwater tears, the slaves’ mortar
soaked with the same blood-red wine

spilled to mark each plague: locusts,
boils, darkness … the death of the firstborn—
and on and on, telling the old story
of suffering and redemption.

When my father opened our door for Elijah
I waited for a sign: incense, sweet and strange,
a shallow breath that was not mine, but Elijah’s
cup remained untouched. I was tired

of Moses and the Red Sea,
the forty years wandering—with stone
tablets in a fancy chest—the exhausting
journey that led to the deathtrap
of cattle cars and ovens.

That night I lost Aaron’s rod
and the safety of bloody doorposts.
I was Isaac with Abraham’s knife—
ready to cut myself free without
the intercession of angels.

But I could not leave this house
built on the bones of pain. Sacrifices
made before my first breath bound me
to this tale of privation— unleavened,
brittle—afflicting my soul
with wonder.

Ira Schaeffer is the current recipient of the Editor’s Choice Loft Chapbook Award. In addition, Ira’s recent poetry has appeared in, “Origami Poems Project,” “Penumbra”; “On the Dark Side: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry”; “Tastes like Pennies”; “50 Haiku”; “Wising Up Press”; and “Silver Birch Press.” His poem, “Primavera,” was a 2014 nomination for the Pushcart Prize.

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