08 November 2015

The Joseph my parents were thinking of in naming me

by Carl Dennis

Joseph's Work

In the great scheme of things, my job --
Overseeing the prduce at Sunshine Market,
Maintaintaining quality in the bins – can't be listed
Among the jobs of first importance,
I realize, but it does require some talent,
The same displayed on a larger scale
By the Joseph my parents were thinking of
In naming me, the favorite son of Jacob,
Who ended up as the overseer
Of all the Egyptian granaries.

It's true my work doesn't use all my gifts,
But neither did Joseph's work use all of his.
His gift for interpreting dreams, for instance,
Though it won him his place, wasn't required
Any time afterwards. If he used it then,
He used it at home, on weekends, the place and time
I use for playing my trumpet or teaching friends
Stretches for easing aches in their backs and knees.

And his work didn't ask him to use his talent
For forgiving wrongs. He would have been free
To spurn his brothers when they came from Canaan
In the time of famine to buy grain, those culprits
Who'd stolen his coat of many colors
Ten years before and thrown him into a pit,
Enraged that their father loved him the most.

Instead, he hugged them, weeping with joy,
Just as I, at moments less dramatic,
Have forgiven my brothers their bullying,
Though none of them has ever apologized.
And I've forgiven my fahter for not intervening.

Every Sunday when the weather's good
I sit for at least an hour on a bench in the graveyard
A block from my house and wonder how many
Of the dead around me might have been happier
If they's managed to put away thoughts of blame,
How many, if they couldn't managed to wish
Their enemies well, managed at least
Not to wish them ill, which is still worth something.

Friends or enemies, if they visit my store on Monday
To finger and sniff the fruit, let them find,
In a mound of pears or plums within their budget,
A few fit to be served at any feast.

From The American Poetry Review, November/December 2015.

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