By Allison Joseph, Carbondale, IL
Grand Prize, Dancing Poetry Festival, 2008
Sing to me a language I dont speak
with vowels swirling round my ears like silk,
fingertips lifting candied morsels to my mouth,
tidbits freed from multicolored tins, their labels
printed in the ancient hieroglyphs of pre-war
factories, machines like monarchs.
Sing to me of settlements, of dust you cannot
wipe from your family name, of carousels
and caravans, tiny stringed instruments in velvet
cases packed away in steamer trunks stuffed
with sepia photos adamant in their frames.
Whisper secrets only your people know,
untranslatable lullabies lilting me into sleep
deeper than rivers by towns now wiped
off any map, a disappeared cartography.
I need to hear click songs and umlauts,
trilled rs and double ls, surnames
restored to multisyllabic glory from Ellis
Island simplifications. Share with me
your historys hope chest--bibles and brooches,
parchment-thin letters with faded fountain scrawls,
recite epic poems until I swoon, shuddering
under blankets woven by women blackshouldered
beneath mantillas of gypsy lace, generations
of widows intimate with the worlds grace
--those tender of graves, singers of hymns,
prayer beads worried between leather palms.