Janine Joseph

Between Chou and the Butterfly

On my way to America I am in an airplane
On a boat When my life is a story I am a good
swimmer An American Dream A guest
worker Freeloader Fence-hopper Uninsured brother
carried from hospital to hospital A crushing
caseload A wrenching anecdote A deserving
young people
An anchor

Before anyone finds me I am heartwood exposed
by lightning By the Young Republicans
By newscasters playing Find the Illegal Immigrant
Find the unwed single The crier The spouse
battered by a U.S. citizen spouse Find the widow(er)
The one you will petition to marry The headless
in the Arizona desert they found

I hear they raid when you’re naked
in bed Packed like a sardine Pillows tucked
around you I hear Like dogs Like Alien Relatives
While you cry and hug They swarm
They ax your back door

The trunks of trees They ax
the wild terrain The scrub The rapid
succession of sounds I make
when I walk alone And sweaty And hardly
myself in the dark where a man
Migrating Suffering great pain Is found
hanging from a tree later charred

According to eyewitnesses
I am the same crazy lost on my way
to the Deadman’s Tree To the hollowed Tree
of the Virgin
In the Valley of the Lost Ones
In the wilderness Stripped of my underwear
For the money stitched into the seams
For a mental status evaluation A physical examination
(to include complete disrobing)

Worse than genital herpes The situation
with these illegals
Into the microphone Says the interviewee

I, the undersigned
Am not a Communist Am not likely to become
a public charge
I understand I do not
traffic other humans Recruit child soldiers
I do not seek to practice polygamy Engage
in espionage
In ordered genocide In items A – L
I do not have to reimburse the school I do solemnly swear
if I am not who I say I am I may subject me
to permanent exclusion

Janine Joseph’s poems have most recently appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Collagist. She holds an MFA from New York University and a PhD from the University of Houston. Janine is an Assistant Professor of English at Weber State University.