(Surah 12 / Genesis 39-41)
That he was standing by the Nile.
He dreamed the river went
From white to red and
Out of the river came seven cows, sleek and fat,
and they fed in the reed grass.
Then seven other cows, gaunt and thin,
And the gaunt and thin cows
Devoured the seven sleek and fat cows.
And the king awoke crying for Joseph.
“By Aton, by the radiant sun, I will
Die tomorrow—Oh! my poor wives
And bakers and architects and priests.”
But Joseph was dreaming too:
Dreaming of goat-blood and wells and
The sons of Ishmael who brought him as a slave
To Potiphar–and the priest’s wife saying
“He does not know how to love a woman;
Take me and love me, Joseph ,or I
Will tell him you raped me. And he will
Believe me because I am his wife.
Lie back on the silk, arch your back
Over the cushion; I will do the rest.”
Joseph woke to the cries of Pharaoh
Reeling into the room, his robe twisted
Into a knot around his neck.
“What does it it mean: cows do not
Eat cows. Does it mean my death,
Zaph′enath-pane′ah?” No, Joseph said
Rubbing crust from his eyes and the memory
Of the woman’s perfume. “It means
Nothing like that–it means other men will
Starve: children, mothers and grandfathers
Mainly, Nothing to do with us. You are the sun
You cannot starve or be deprived of brightness.”
Pharaoh clapped his hands: “Praise god,
I was hoping it was something like that.
I am sorry about Potiphar’s wife–always the slag;
But I will give you As’enath—you’ll have sons
I’ll fill your grain stall and your belly will
Always be full of wine, your bed never empty;
I will kill the baker for you–
I will kill Potiphar and give you his head
as a token of my love for you–
Only please, never leave my side
Joseph, Joseph I need you at my side.”
The Hebrew looked closely at the king’s face;
There was the sort of practice that comes
From fright and superstition,
too many dreams, and too little rest.
“I will, my Lord: I will stay—for a while. Only
do this–wash your hands, and your feet
Bring beer and meat and bread, bring your sons
And I will summon my faithless brothers
and Benjamin from my father’s house,
and we will all sit together—recline together
We will eat together.”
“Ah! Joseph,” said the king—“You ask too much.”