The John Edward Johnson Prize
Winter 2015
Celeste McMaster

How to See a Burning Bush

First, notice your surroundings:
beneath the café’s rectangular 
pergola, rosemary commingles 
with ivy and dianthus. The only lights 
strung above bones of wood, the orange 
against the bruising sky, how each sip 
of espresso shocks you back to things unseen.

Listen carefully: hear, on the other side 
of the empty wrought iron chair in front 
of you, a Yaupon holly bush begin 
to hum, as if someone turned it on 
from underneath. Little by little fire 
spreads, slow motion, from one branch 
to the other, a divine finger tracing 

limbs in fiery paint, so close but no burning 
smell, no smoke, just low crackling.  
Kick off sling-backed shoes. Use the other 
chair as footstool. Warm your feet’s soles.
Observe God put the world on pause: 
customers freeze, coffee cups to lips, 
hands stuck in gestures directing thoughts’ traffic.  

Wafts of smoke stop dead around each table.
Take a deep breath. Stand, barefoot. Walk 
onto cold concrete. The bush afire, not consumed.  
Listen for a holy voice, deep as a cave, 
in the humming. Recognize it, slowly, 
as your own.  A hissing ember in chest,
rising up your throat, out your voice.  Listen.

©2015 Celeste McMaster