Charles Venable

god never withheld visions
even joseph owned a bronze bowl
for scrying
it filled with burnt bones
am i still the boy
my brothers threw in the hole?


man’s tendency to see patterns
where there are none
this finger bone reveals
his brothers are alive
this knuckle tells him
throw benjamin in prison

and grow up like his father
a deceiver
lord over his brothers
set above them
in famine
banished to this land
their descendants enslaved

but god sends messages
to men like moses
signs like the burning bush
we remove our shoes and sandals
this is holy ground
it says
cinders burn bare feet.


man’s curse to see connections
where there are none
if a bush
it might be god
go free his people from bondage

and grow up a prophet
but for forty years
in the wilderness
a generation dies
for listening to a burning bush

or listening to a talking donkey
like balaam
the oracle called to curse israel
he did the wise thing
struck it with his staff
just in case
it wasn’t a sign of


man’s disease to hear voices
where there are none
or for balaam
god’s voice
it was wise to obey
a talking donkey.

and grow up forgotten,
save sunday school lessons
he is the fool
the donkey saw
an angel on the road
he didn’t know

i asked god
for a vision of the future,
no bronze bowl
no burning bush
no talking donkey
i prayed and prayed
and prayed

Charles Venable