Janine Joseph

About the Visas

Okay. So I once saw my mother
           backswing between two dogs in heat
to separate them the same way my brother
           with the Y-shaped scar on his forehead
hit me with a chair from a dining room set.
           The chair was blue. Dark-dark
gray. My aunt died when I was fifteen
           and when her body pulsed
with tanked oxygen, I dreamt
           of the sea. Yeah, my father, too,
was a romantic, always walking out
           of a room with his backhand having
hit you. Yes. I remember the vacuum cleaner.
           I got on that plane alone.
We had nine beagles, but only flew
           eight out. One was too old.
I wasn’t here yet, but that’s what I heard.
           That morning I’d bandaged a bite
on my calf. There was so much wet
           hair to pry and I was only eight
when they fought over the food
           put out by the maids. Yes,
all of them. My aunt bled saliva
           from the wound with garlic. She was
—no—already here. She had been
           born here. There were five of us.
Fourteen, counting the beagles. One
           was too old, but I came with my mother’s
friend’s family. I addressed her as aunt;
           that’s just what we did. The woman
was an asthmatic. I told someone I was
           vacationing. For no more than three months
exactly. Uncle? Yes, there was a man
           with a belly. But the vacuum bag exploded
because the dog had chewed a hole
           through it; my father hit one of us
with an Angels souvenir bat;
           I had just turned eight. We were grounded
in the dining room—but this
           was in America already.

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.