Jacob and Esau

A poem for Sunday

An illustration a small figure and a larger figure pointing at each other, both standing on a line balanced on the pointed roof of a house
Daniel Liévano

Who left his pair of genuine-leather holsters,
Tooled for cowboy cap guns, outside in the rain?
A question my father had to contend with one morning
Some seventy summers ago in Missouri.
He stood in the driveway, late for the office,
Seersucker jacket over one arm,
And weighed his options.
Should he believe my brother, eight and a half,
Who claimed that the ruined holsters were mine,
That his was the pair safely stowed inside,
Or should he believe me, seven,
Who claimed the opposite just as loudly?
A peacemaker by nature, not a judge, my father
Might have reached a decision as wise as Solomon’s
If he’d had more time to ponder his options.
He must have seen, too late, that cutting the good pair
In two with his pocket knife didn’t solve the problem.
Long after he’d driven off, my brother and I
Stood in the driveway, disconsolate.
Of course, my brother cried more bitterly,
Having told the truth and been made to watch
His favorite gift being dismembered,
And by Dad, his great protector.
If this was the kind of fairness available
Inside the family, what could he hope for
From the world outside? As for me, the liar,
I was crying too, mainly from shock
That my father’s wisdom had finally faltered.
I could fool him, it appeared, if I tried.
I didn’t need to be good to prosper.
The good man I was meant to become
Was only an option in a sea of options.
Maybe next time I could trick somebody
Into giving me not merely half
Of what wasn’t mine, but all.
What a weight to fall on me out of nowhere:
The task of asking myself from that day on
What I really wanted.