Zilka Joseph

Mama, Who’d Have Thought: Zilka Joseph

Mama, Who’d Have Thought

that after all these years in America, my love and I
would finally have a place of our own? No, not a real
house house but a condo beside a pond. Not a real
pukur like the lakes in Bengal that dad used to go
fishing in but a man-made pond with a fountain where

mallards and black ducks bring their broods
of super-charged little ones. And where
the pied grebe pops up in spring and fall,
and the trumpeter swans I love so much visit too.
Then the old regulars–a belted kingfisher and
a couple of blue herons fish here. Sometimes

in deep summer, cormorants unfurl and sun
their long wings to dry while still skimming
the water. Dad would love this. Now you’ve
come to see me, ma, let’s go for a walk.
Here, take my arm and let me guide you

down slowly to the bank. The pavements
are smooth—not like those death traps
in Kolkata. You’re laughing. But careful, here
the ground is uneven and slopes sharply

to the pond. You’re right, that clump of grass
is where the geese I told you about nested
last year. The very same year we moved
in. So sad. Oh, the neighbors are friendly,
no, no one here is like us. Wait, let me show

you the giant goldfish. How the big ones wriggle
as the heron tries to swallow them. If
it rains tonight we’ll surely see some shoals
churning on the surface. And so funny, once
when the kingfisher caught a fish that was too

heavy, or maybe it was thrashing too hard, she
must have dropped it. For days we wondered
who left this dead goldfish on our patio. A sign
from the spirit world that you live in now,

we thought! And then, you won’t believe this—
one afternoon we see an osprey!
It hovered and plunged
into the pond, emerged with a goldfish
the size of a kitten in its talons and it flashes
right past the big picture window, not two feet
from where my love and I watched, mouths
hanging open. Yes, we took a photo but it was all so
sudden. It’s all blurry. I’ll show you when

we go back in. It happened so fast. That gorgeous
bird stayed for two weeks. I think it will return
this fall. The red tailed hawks
and Cooper’s hawks are always hunting
around here. What? Are we safe?

Yes. Yes. And no.
No, ma, America is not safe. Sure, some policemen
kill people who don’t look like them—it’s scary.
White men march nowadays, shouting threats.
They put children in cages at the border. Have

they no hearts? Bad things could happen
to us here too. This is our home now, Ma.
You didn’t want us to leave. You wept
for days. Forgive us. We could not bring
you here then. Now your spirit is here.
Protect us. Please stay.

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