Zilka Joseph

A-Z of Foreign Anguish; Freedom Song with Ginsberg, Dylan, Marley; Prayer: Zilka Joseph

A-Z of Foreign Anguish

A is for anguish says my mummy tongue, my lingo lango la la
But English is my foreign father tongue daddy lang blab blab
Colonists with your white gaze told our stories. With classic
demagoguery, tyranny, manifest destiny, excuses, you forged
evil tales to transform us into demons. Crushed the truths with vile,
flippant lies. What about us? How you ravaged us? Scepter and staff
grinds down our culture. Kings of erosion and erasure, how long
has your terror ruled? Your knives at our children’s throats? Who wash
Indians out of every picture? Who conquered our lands crying—I
just come in peace! Guns in your hearts, greed in your DNA. The Raj
kept us slaves in our own land! Took our tea, spices, jewels, broke our back,
lashed and tortured us. What’s in your Crown? Our Kohinoor! Oh cruel
masters! Recorders of the “inferior race”. Ah, clever sahib and mem!
Natives? Like insects you labeled us! With fine calipers, condescension.
Oppressor, the nightmare still lives, the hate systems that never go.
Pain is embedded in our bones. You poisoned our wells. Now, you dump
questions on us? You teach us civility? Listen to us first, our A & Q
right out of our mouths. You shoved the father tongue down our
“savage” (and shithole countries’) throats. Destroyed histories, literatures,
tongues. Made us ugly in our own eyes, made us hate ourselves, split
us, shattered us, turned Hindu against Muslim, Muslim against Hindu.
Viceroys and priests, you ruled, you hunger-converted us. Oh holy Rev.
Whiteman, was sweet Jesus’ face fair? He was a humble dark-skinned Jew!
Xanax—will it help? When we invite you to our open table, you vex
yourself! Cry we’re your current foreign anguish? That we can sway
zeitgeist, world biz, karma. Got heart? Got Hinglish? Chutzpah? Pizzazz?

–after the “Discourse on the Logic of Language” by M. NourbeSe Philip


Freedom Song with Ginsberg, Dylan, Marley

It occurs to me that I am America

Ginsberg can you rant to us
Dylan can you moan to us
Marley can you wail to us

American you are beautiful
sometimes you have the biggest heart I know
sometimes you have the smallest heart I know
but please
get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand
for the times they are a changin’

O prophets of the people
will the walls keep marching on

are we
disposable animals

Come you masters of war you that build all the guns
it’s your own children you riddle with bullets
fling upon the rubbish heap of history

I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my
flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns

the giants of the castle have no mercy
they grind our bones to make their bread
eat our little children fee fi fo fum

O prophets and militias of Mammon
and Machiavelli and Monsanto
Even Jesus would never forgive what you do

O let us sing our true true songs
our songs of freedom

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
oh emancipate yourself
emancipate yourself

None but ourselves can free our minds



O dearly beloved you walked upon
this beautiful earth we honor your footprints
your life your last breath

we who never knew you we always knew you
we will cover your body with flowers as we say
your name your holy name

we will light
the match to light/ the branch that will set your funeral pyre/on fire/who
will shave their heads/ in mourning/light a diya/and sail a leaf boat
on the River Ganga/Om shantih

you to the great Tower of Silence/on our shoulders/to the graveyard
of the Worshipers of Fire/offer your body to the sacred
birds/give your body back to nature

we will say hail Mary
full of grace for you/ashes to ashes/dust to dust/a soul
has risen/ let perpetual light shine upon you

we will dig
a grave for you/bow to the east/say Janazah for you/O elevate
your station among those who are guided

your eyelids/with loving fingers/sing Kaddish/pray grant us peace and a happy
life/light candles/ to remember you

call on the Compassionate ones
ask for your heart/our hearts/to be opened/that loving kindness/guide us
to see/ beyond blindness

one day
may the bullets knives nooses knees of hate war tyranny
turn into roses

may all darkness that lives among us inside us around us
bloom into jasmine

may pain be transformed into lilies
sweet scent lifting us all to new life

Zilka Joseph was nominated twice for a Pushcart, and for Best of the Net. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Poetry Daily, KRO, MQR, Asia Literary Review, Ablucionistas, and in anthologies such as RESPECT: An Anthology of Detroit Music Poetry, 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium, and The Kali Project. Her chapbooks Lands I Live In and What Dread were nominated for a PEN America and a Pushcart respectively. Sharp Blue Search of Flame, her book of poems (Wayne State University Press) was a Foreword INDIES Book Award finalist. She teaches creative writing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is a manuscript coach. www.zilkajoseph.com