1635 c/o Jared Dawson

Distance is the space between my last word
and your next one. Distance is the arc this knife
will travel as it explores around your neck.

When Maria Callas hits the high note at the end of “Signore, Ascolta” in Puccini’s Turnadot, I cannot help thinking of Rembrandt’s “Sacrifice of Abraham.” Abraham, crouched over his son, one hand planted firmly across Issac’s face – a wave of violence rushing down from the shoulder. His face is turned towards the interruption of the Angel’s voice calling out, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Follow the blue of the Angel’s sleeve to Abraham’s blue robe down to the blanket spilling out underneath the notches of Issac’s spine. A wave crests just off his left shoulder.

Follow the blue that for two months trails Rembrandt’s first born, Rumbartus, and wraps him tight from head to toe.

Follow the blank gaze of the angel that passes in front of Abraham’s face, over Issac’s head. Rembrandt’s Angel of Mercy gropes darkly for Abraham’s wrist and is relieved when the fingers wrap around it.

Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not move his hand from Issac’s face to wipe away the tear that you will see in the corner of his eye if you creep close to the canvas. His right wrist aches in the grasp of the Angel.

The Angel says, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, do not do anything to him,” using a form of the negative imperative that is reserved for expressing immediately pressing, specific commands. “Al-tishlach.” “Al-ta as.”

Abraham can barely hear the Angel speak over the B-flat rolling out from Maria Callas’ throat.

It peels Abraham’s fingers from around the knife.

Listen carefully.

You can hear the soft rattle of Callas’ molars vibrating one against the other in the 1954 recording.

You can hear the sound of a knife falling to the rocks.