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REVIEW AMERICANA

 

Fall 2007

Volume 2, Issue 2

http://www.americanpopularculture.com/review_americana/fall_2007/joseph.htm




ZILKA JOSEPH

 

Boy with Red Hair

 

At Michigan City, the sleepy train curves,
and the 3.15 sun hits the red hair of a boy
fishing in the harbor. His navy 

sweater slumps at his hips,
his fishing rod stretches like a staff over water,
he lifts his small face to watch us go by

and his hair fires up. In half shade,
his little blond companion has a fish
in his hand glinting silver and a shirt

as yellow as the forsythia
bursting behind them both like silent fireworks,
but the red hair is the chosen one of the sun.

Shaggy, rough, it blazes eerily even as the blue
lightning of water forks between lines of white boats,
then snakes to the horizon beyond. 

His hair screams its scarlet call
through the dark wash of sunlight,
its beam fixes that second like a pin –

and as the train turns, returns
to shadow,  before charred chimneys,
jagged-toothed factories bar water and sun,

the lake flashes open like a metal lotus,
bares itself to the light
streaming

from the red hair of the boy
fishing in crooked elbow
of the harbor in Michigan City.


 

What's Wrong with Wilted Lettuce

 

is that it isn’t crisp. No one’s tasted
hunger in a while, whatever’s cooking
for dinner is not good enough. That’s why
one day you made your daughter
watch BBC to see how flies
crowd in the eyes of dying children,
and now she hates you. But your mother-in-law
who gave you “How to make Gingerbread
houses”  believes Girl Scouts should’ve taught her
true compassion, that fortunately
the only tsunami she may ever know
is one in her bathtub, or the mild aftershocks
of boyfriend betrayal. As if you can
make her wise, be the Oracle of Delphi
you talk of war and genocide,
warn her of Ecstacy, date rape, pedophiles,
she says Mom, not pasta again.
So you tailor menus to please, know
why your mom did it, your grandma
too. Then one day she comes
home from college quoting if the shoe doesn’t fit
must we change the foot to her father
who has settled on the couch
watching Anderson Cooper’s coverage on earthquake
survivors in Islamabad, tells her he hopes
Osama is history. But now you’ve left
the living room so it’s just white
noise, and you think of voices, music,
fading in and out of the big brown
radio when you were a girl.
You turn on your kitchen TV while
hummimg The good ship Lollipop,
and your son licks salt off his fingers,
shows you his popcorn artwork,
asks, What’s for dinner, Ma, hope it’s not
chicken. You shrug, take the roast
out of the oven, watch the Moroccans
caught on video, under Spanish fire,
scaling razor fences, ladders to freedom.
Blood stained fabric flaps in black
and white wind, as your hands pick quickly
through lettuce, throw wilted leaves in the bin.

 


 

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