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.