The John Edward Johnson Prize
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.