Today's poem is by Patrick Phillips

The Rules

The first rule was that he made the rules.
The second: we obeyed them.
The worst rule was that rules changed
unpredictably if he was losing.

There was a rule that split us into teams.
A rule about no starting over.
According to the rules, our mother,
forced to choose, always chose him.

And though the game was nameless,
We could have called it Abraham and Isaac.
My brother hauled the wood, the flint, the knife
as our father made a bonfire of his anger.

There was a rule about the first-born son—
the lone, unbroken one that saved me.

Copyright © 2004 Patrick Phillips All rights reserved
from Chattahoochee
University of Arkansas Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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