Zilka Joseph's work has appeared in journals including Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Mantis, Rattle and the Asia Literary Review. Her chapbooks, Lands I Live In and What Dread, were nominated for a PEN America and a Pushcart award respectively. Her book Sharp Blue Search of Flame was published by Wayne State University Press in 2016.


Zilka Joseph


                                    look into my eyes America

how easy it is to dream in color


oh say white say red say blue

we who made and make you still

we have built

your towers

your tracks your bridges

                                    with our bones


from sea to shining sea this is our home

home is where the heart is

yes all the broken ones

we pick your fruit sing hosanna

we build our hearths here

we bake bread that we break together

we give thanks for each grain

we feed the hungry

for we have known hunger

see this mouth it sings peace

in every language


                                    watch my face shine it will light up

your pavements your alleys

your castles your shacks

your thirsty fields

like a harvest moon

after blight and famine

and give back to us

                                    the dollars like shekels

you have stolen forever



                                    study then the maps inside my eyes

                                    see the world

yes feel my heartbeat touch my human skin

it is real and see our scars they are the same

our scars we carry them thick and ugly

we who are no stranger to dust and ashes

here is my war-torn hand

                                    here are my lips let me kiss your cheek

where do we end

where do we begin


when I say love I mean you

when I say home I mean you

when I say to you

we are so beautiful do not turn away 

do not shatter America America


for richer for poorer

we are your beautiful bones

your heart

your veins

why are you afraid our blood is the same color

our skin so easy to dissolve

frail border between this world and the next


                                    oh sing with me sing with me what is made one

we who are embraced

by sweet Lady Liberty

and we who are made so beautiful so varied

so new

so whole again

inside the harbor

of your arms oh America


                                    do not lead us into darkness

                                    hate our gods our children

                                    throw us not into camps and ghettos

                                    smash your jackboots into us


                                    but deliver yourself from that dagger in your hands

                                    your eyes your heart

                                    the dagger you have become