Iphigenia Cries From The Altar – Jonathan Cohen

They bent her over, raped her one by one. She was passed to a man in uniform.
He pulled her hair. He shot her in the head while he raped her.
Eyewitness testimony of October 7 massacres, Haaretz,
November 8, 2023

With no deer or ram gifted by a benevolent god
to take the knife, virgin blood soaked the ground,
her slaughter eternal. At Herxheim the people
quartered heads, fashioned tools, cups,
skull caps from hard bone. In Oświęcim,
they made soap from fat, wigs from hair.
In the gauntlet, the Iroquois burned their cousins
lovingly with coals, flayed their skin, made a stew
to master their spirit, absorb their strength.
You will remember I gave you a chestnut
taken from the ground at Babi Yar– bare trees,
bruised sky pressing, the fruit of the loamy earth
stained by the blood preserved in Ukraine’s snow.
In every land of death-adoration, the captive’s
torn heart, held high to the sun, discharges
to the god, and the people sing to heaven. Crowds
march and cheer. Writers of statements,
signers of letters step out, hold forth, beat
their chests and bray. We are so good, so right,
they say. We correct history, restore the tribes,
return Iphigenia to the sacrifice.


A native of Buffalo, New York and a graduate of Kenyon College, Jonathan Cohen lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. Several of his poems have appeared or are pending in Stone Canoe Journal, I-70 Review, Great Lakes Review, Naugatuck River Review, Cider Press Review, and others. He is a graduate of the Pocket MFA program and studies with Jon Davis. 

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