I. Train Ride
Rough train wall splinters my back countless km of cross ties clack feed my spine with punches cannot sit with breath beard stench crushed crowd as narrow slit slat noon strong sun pushes its curse through cracks and not one spoon of water from these eye clouds my witness cries of carrion crow.
Long list of days and fouled floor nights in straw jackets and pajama bundles ill dressed to journey breadth of our Deutschland for union with secret pits and smokestack guards pass our families stinky thin cabbage sheets and a taste of serious gas as we pick lice from our clothes and lay our wrinkled uncles down.
Hear me I am Jew from my ancestry climbs Isaac girded and David smacks giants with stones in my book mother has no face only black hair in her bewilderment as scavengers pick my eardrum for bread crumbs leave me deaf and angered at my brethren who say it’s good for the homeland quit your belly ache our dear children slumber midnight dead over steel rumble wheels of this transport box.
Hear me hear me hear me brother hear me hear me papa and all polite aunties who come to the funerals full of accordion good life dance fun to paint our worries bright sky blue and enjoy sweet shrill whistles from the tea kettle that we can rise up to our fear and riot.
III. Crossing The Desert
On a camel I am tied dried trails of vomit on his side as I lurch over dunes to a sea only fluted in our legends of a woman on a rock reefed ship who persists in delirium my crime was blasphemy I am told before clubs and ropes and money changed hands leave me gasp and ask my captors why I should suffer so for lending a leper hope I merely spoke of cool juice and modest letters on a page to draw an illiterate picture of praise for an iron pot of watery soup is feast in fire light of elephant tracks and African stars.
Hear me I am Moroccan and claim Mohammed as my own for the ultimate prize of ages shall leaven my courage to the size of bags and shrink my apprehension to an olive pit as when I was deadly young a holy caravan suckled my desire scrawling sand with long staffs the inverted name of their god for to worship only headfirst disfigures his anger into bleats of foolish petty peace.
IV. Spread of Civilization
Hear me I am envoy from the Roman pope given to my man-christ as keeper of pearls to protect heathen souls from carnal cheer as daybreak draws crispy shadows on heaps of quenched naked boys and street cobbles heat I bring proof that my mission is grander than a dusty book of skewed truth announce it superior sublime even to perish with your whip thorns and blood on my cross than gargle your pagan lust into a drunken gutter.
V. A Time Before Ships
Teach me to serve our sacred ways and swing from my solitude my people howled their demands and I bowed to eating embers to seal my loyalty to my buffalo mother and oppose creatures who defile her I ride forth and issue arrows at these foes of the Earth who rape her rivers and leave her stricken pull forests from her mountainous breasts and leave her stumps spit poison into her skies and leave her moonlight eyes to weep infection.
VI. Voices In Trees
Hear me I am custodian of no compass point and even though I am not invited to speak of eccentric miracles from where I rest on tombstones I continue to follow my own map a hundred days into the flood or enduring in barren cities now rest my case and place my dreams into my rucksack that odd council of swamp gods can urge conversion of another carcass don’t want my freedom fraught with torture or spicy with the passion of persecution cannot get behind those nails they pound into your choices or the harshly hammered melody of their deliverance.
This piece first appeared in Dirty Chai, Winter 2014.