Alien, Part One

Martha Collins

If you were Chinese, you had (mostly) been excluded since 1882.
If you were Japanese, things were complex after 1907–8.

If you were anything else, you were not excluded as such in 1916

although there were many who thought you should be
if you were the eastern or southern European
that you increasingly were: Russian / Polish
Jewish    Italian    Polish    Slavic    Greek . . .

—and you could have been excluded as a convict
lunatic   beggar    pauper    polygamist    anarchist
prostitute    epileptic    contract laborer    mental defective
bearer of loathsome / contagious disease . . . : a growing list.

If you came after 1892, you probably (90%) arrived on Ellis Island,
where in 1906 you were still likely (99%) to be admitted,

but where, if you came in 1914, you might have been given
an intelligence test by Henry Goddard, the results of which
were inconclusive (and your chances of being excluded small)
but in 1916 you might (10%) have been marked X mental defect.

If you came in 1917, the new Immigration Act could have excluded
you for 33 reasons, and for the first time would have done so
if you could not pass a literacy test (for which Madison Grant
had lobbied) or if you came from an extensive Asiatic Barred Zone.

If you were admitted, you might have taken a train
from New York to southern Illinois, where you probably
would have worked in a mine, especially if you were Italian.

More by Martha Collins

The Good Gray Wolf

Wanted that red, wanted everything tucked inside
that red, that body, it seemed, turned inside out,
that walking flower, petals furled, leaved
by the trees by the forest path, the yellow basket
marking the center--

			wanted to raise that rose
petal skin to my gray face, barely to brush
that warmth with my cold nose, but I knew she'd cry
for mercy, help, the mother who'd filled the basket
that morning, Wolf, she'd cry, Wolf, and she'd
be right, why should she try to see beyond
the fur, the teeth, the cartoon tongue wet
with anticipation?

			And so I hid behind
a tree as she passed on the path, then ran, as you know,
to her grandmother's house, but not as they say, I knocked
and when she answered I asked politely for her
advice. And then, I swear, she offered me tea,
her bonnet, an extra gown, she gave me more
than advice, she tucked me into a readied bed,
she smoothed my rough fur, I felt light
as a flower, myself, stamened and stemmed in her
sweet sheets.

			Not ate her, you see, but rather became
her, flannel chest for the red head, hood
that hid the pearl that when I touched it flushed
and shone. What big eyes! and she opened the cape,
tongue, mouth to her mouth, and opened everything,
I crooned, crawling inside, wolf to flower,
gray to rose, grandmother into child
again, howl to whisper, dagger to cloak,
my mother father animal arms, disarmed
by love, were all she ever dreamed of.

[white paper #28]

could get a credit card loan car

come and go without a never had

to think about a school work job

to open doors to buy a rent a nice

place yard park beside a walk

in any store without a never had

to dress to buy a dress shoes under-

wear to understate or –play myself 

to make myself heard to get across 

a street a never mind point I never

had to earn the right to climb  

my own if I should lose my key or

all I own my open door world was all 

before me where to choose to and I

Animal / Anima


all of us     all but us     only

(but not us) the mammals     or only

us: animal in us     or only

the male of us:     brute

 

no animals     in the Bible

only beasts     as  of the field

not us:     it says    breathed

into     in our image     of the dust

 

anima breath     to anima

soul     but all animals

breathe the     same     one

long song     the same     air