Oneiric - Poem by gershon hepner
He said: “I’m sure that I’m oneiric.”
His father heard and got an earache,
because although he loved him more
than all his brothers, the rapport
between them became jeopardized
when he told dreams that advertised
him, candidate for president,
upstart but unhesitant.
His brothers, in their tribal teams,
outraged when they all heard his dreams
implying he was big man on the campus,
soon demonstrated dreadful tempers
and jealousy, which for the mean-eyed
becomes a monster that is green-eyed.
This led, of course, to their revulsion
and finally to his expulsion,
when tragically the dreamer woke
and they removed his colored cloak
for which he had no use as slave
in Egypt, which is like a grave
from which no man returns, Sheol
the place for which you hear bells toll
not only for the dear-departed
but their survivors when faint hearted.
His dreams could not yet be fulfilled,
his role atoning for the guilt
of Sarah, who’d expelled her slave
and Ishmael––trespass very grave.
When he to Ishmaelites was sold
his great-grandmother was paroled,
and he instead became afflicted,
as by the Pieces God predicted
when He told Abraham his seed
would be enslaved. No evil deed
had justified this, till his wife oppressed
her slave before the Binding test
when Abraham would nearly kill
his younger son against God’s will.
His dreams had merely been adjourned
until the wheel of fortune turned,
for when this poem ends he sees
ten brothers bended on their knees.
The houseboy of a eunuch he
refused to service sexually
his mistress, who the eunuch hoped
would bear a son for him. He groped,
perhaps, a little and then fled,
avoiding the adulterous bed,
and thrown into a dungeon would
interpret dreams he understood,
related to him by two cellies
accused of being Machievellis
and plotting against Pharaoh. First
the man who quenched his Pharaoh’s thirst,
cupbearer of the monarch, told
his dream to Joseph, who foretold
that he within three days would serve
his master wine, the royal preserve
he loved to drink, the vintage rated
so highly it could not be dated,
perhaps derived from Noah’s vines
that led to Canaan’s curse. No fines
sufficed to punish that abuse
that he inflicted, drunk with booze
that was maturing in a cask
when Canaan poured it in a flask
and served it to his granddad, Noah,
who still was grieving for the Shoah
that the Flood had caused. Just Shem
and Japheth he would not condemn,
but Canaan, son of Ham, he cursed,
once he, like Pharaoh, quenched his thirst.
From Ham descended, Pharaoh drank
the wine the critics used to rank
above all others. On the label
they claimed it came from fields where Abel
was murdered by his brother Cain.
This labeling was false, it came
from Canaan, just as Joseph did.
He told the butler: “I’m a Yid, ”
but by him he would be forgotten,
his brain just good for picking cotton.
The next dream was of bread and birds
dreamed by the royal baker. Words
related by him would portend
that in three days his life would end.
“By birds your brain will then be eaten! ”
For blunt truth Joseph was a glutton,
which did not cause him to be very
popular in any terri-
tory––few Egyptians raved
about him, by him all enslaved.
When three days later the cupbearer
got back his job he was no fairer
to Joseph than one might expect.
He did not ever recollect
the Shemite Canaanite, the Jew
who’d shared the Hamite’s cell. The brew
which made the Pharaoh’s palate wet
would help the butler to forget
his cellie who, though unconvicted,
could not fulfill what dreams predicted.
He’d told the butler: “No delaying,
in three days time you will be laying
the regal table once again,
and pour till Pharaoh cries out ‘When! ’
Remember me when that occurs.”
The man forgot––a human errs,
and Joseph should, when he divined,
to what’s divine have been resigned.
Then two years later, Pharaoh dreamed
two dreams which his magicians deemed
to be beyond interpretation.
His butler said: “My situation
was parlous once when Pharaoh threw
me into prison with a Jew,
but this same Jew was able to
interpret dreams, because he knew
from what I dreamed that I would soon
be brought back to the royal saloon.”
Before the Pharaoh finished luncheon
they brought up Joseph from his dungeon,
so he could hear about the themes
of each of Pharaoh’s puzzling dreams,
of cows that swallowed cows and ears
of grain that swallowed all their peers.
“I won’t interpret, ” Joseph said.
“The answers don’t come from my head
but from the Lord.” He sounded pious.
In Pharaoh’s court there was no bias
against the people who bring church
into the state for their research.
He told the Pharaoh: “Seven kine
that on another seven dine,
and seven ears of grain that swallow
the fatter ears of grain that wallow
beside the Nile’s well-watered banks
denote economy that tanks
in cycles I can show on graphs.”
His presentation got no laughs
when he continued: “You must trust
me––after boom will come a bust,
I mean a famine! ” As predicted
he got the date right, for he picked it
not out of hats but out of dreams––
that’s how a man can join dream teams.
This man who could all dreams interpret,
oneiric, told the slave: “No sherbet!
I’ll think I’ll have the Haagen David
while Pharaoh drinks the Mogen David.
The King may dream––I’ll stick to ice!
I have to know how God rolls dice
and clear my palate and my head
to find out what in dreams is said,
although it seems that mine were false.”
Asenath, dancing the last waltz,
and looking in the moonlight fairer
than Potiphar’s fair Potiphera,
said coolly, while the moon was waning:
“It seems ten men have come from Canaan.”
They were his brothers, unaware
The dreamer Joseph waited there.
Soon each would bend to him his knee
fulfilling thus his dreams’ decree.
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