The Dream-Coat: Issachar’s Tale
by Paul Hooker
Genesis 37 and 50:20
You meant it all for evil, but God meant it all for good
was what he said. Perhaps, but not from where I stood.
I was drowned in his endearment, undone in his desire,
rejected in his rescue, yet kindled in his fire.
Had it been left to me that day when Joseph topped the rise
I’d have stabbed the little prick as soon as I laid eyes
on that dream-coat. I’d have stuck him like a slaughtered sheep
and left him lying in the dirt to beg and bleed and bleat.
That dream-coat—so he called it for he always wore his dreams
like blazes on its panels and piping at the seams—
See here, he said, the sun and moon and stars bow on my sleeves
and here I stand so tall and gold amid your sodden sheaves.
Don’t kill him, pleaded Reuven—always one to work the con—
and Judah said let’s sell him to those slavers coming yon
and divvy up the proceeds while they tie him to the board
and soak his coat in goat’s blood and tell Pa he was gored.
So we did the deed. Afterward I kept the coat—
A keepsake? A trophy? A hospice for a hope?
Lesser son of Leah, scion of the unloved spouse,
cursed to dream of flocks and streams and even of a house
of Issachar—I liked the sound of that. But years
of famine, death, and desert burn up everything but tears
and drive a man to Pharaoh’s land to barter dreams for food.
You meant it all for evil, but God meant it all for good.
They sing of Joseph’s wisdom, but it catches in my throat,
and even after all these years I scarce can touch the coat.
But dreams were written on it. They were written in my blood.
I do not see the difference between evil and the good.
This is what I know: here’s his body, wrapped and dressed,
encoffined for the nether world that waits upon the blessed.
Alone of all the brothers now I stand at Joseph’s pyre
and return the blood-stiffened dream-coat to the one who lit the fire.
gadzooks! every word explodes with imagery. “scion of the unloved spouse”—-entire chapters of resentment and bitterness, from Leah’s anguish of being used but not wanted to the son born and not treasured. you have taken a nearly forgotten name and given it a face; a life. you remind of the forensic archeologists who wield the arts of computer technology to put flesh on long-dried bones. from empty sockets, eyes, blinking with rage and sadness. as always, Paul, exquisite.