Linda Pastan

My Jacob

My father was an Old Testament
kind of father—warmth and wrath
and arbitrary judgments
mixed into a formula I imbibed
with my mother’s milk.

I learned to obey him for the sake
of peace in the kitchen
where, with prodigious appetite,
he’d maraud the ice box
for olives or leftover pie.

And if he’d been asked to sacrifice me,
he might have remembered
the grandfather of another Jacob
and said, as he did so often and lovingly,
but she’s just a girl.


Reprinted from Shirim with permission from the author.




Linda Pastan is the author of fifteen book of poems, most recently A Dog Runs Through It (W.W. Norton, 2018) and Insomnia (W.W. Norton, 2015). Two of her books were finalists for the National Book Award: PM/AM (1982) and Carnival Evening (1998). She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991-1995 and winner of the 2003 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Other honors include the Dylan Thomas award, a Pushcart Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, and the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She lives in Chevy Chase, MD. To read more by this author: Evolving City Issue, Vol. 8:4, Fall 2007 DC Places Issue, Vol. 7:3, Summer 2006 Wartime Issue, Vol. 7:2, Spring 2006 Six Poems, Vol. 6:3, Summer 2005 Whitman Issue, Vol. 6:1, Winter 2004