What the Donkey Saw — A poem for Parsha Balak (Aliyah 3)

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The she-donkey saw the angel . . .

Numbers 22:25

Animals sometimes see things we don’t
or don’t yet. They’re the best earthquake predictors.
My cat alone sees things in dimensions
I still don’t believe exist.

The evil in twist ties
the potential of anything to move
and the claws-out imperative to stop it
at all costs.

So it’s no surprise to me that Balaam’s she-donkey
(that is her preferred pronoun) saw an
Angel of the Holy One on the road
on his way to say words put into his mouth.

He beat his donkey (which is not a metaphor)
three times as she cowered before what
she knew was there. I can’t imagine
beating an animal, even one time, for any reason.

And that’s not because of the potential of the
hidden camera. Today our wisdom tells us we shouldn’t
do or say anything we wouldn’t want recorded forever
and scrutinized by all of the internet’s humanity.

Someone I once knew, who, actually, many people
once knew, whose voice we will never stop hearing,
even though we can no longer see her, once said
the person in front of you is a goldmine of potential.

You should assume it’s there, that gold,
in all your interactions, even when your cat
spits up a hairball on the carpet, instead of
the easier to clean nearby tile floor.

Even when they’ve cut you off on the freeway
Even when they haven’t paid your invoice
Even when they’ve stopped on the road in front of you
for reasons you don’t understand.

Pay attention to what the donkey does and says.
It’s a miracle it’s talking at all. And may you always
say the words that were put in your mouth
by your conscience. From them, we will all grow rich.

These poems are offered free for your enjoyment. If you use them as part of an event, meeting, educational or liturgical setting, please consider tipping the author.

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