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Kim Zach

Binding the Generations

By Kim Zach

Because I am not the master,
I have the skin of a slave
who has spent her life

under the lash.
Each whip crack scatters
fragments of my ancestors.

Inside my body, I mourn.
Sorrow conjures up
my bartered children,

an armful of babies, gone.
Only whispers left
of their sweet breath

At night, yellow tears
flare like flames. Grief spills
out the cabin door, flows

through the woods, fills
the ocean and keeps afloat
ships bearing the multitude—

my blood brothers,
my sacred sisters. Snatched
from a far continent,

bound to planks, they roll
in sickness and squalor—
Africans rocking the deep.

Emerging from the belly
of darkness, they shade eyes
against forgotten sun. Broken

feet, circled in iron, stumble
onto the sandy shore.
I meet them there

and prepare to weep forever.

Hazelwood House for Unwed Mothers, 1963

The girl disappeared
overnight, escaped
from her second-floor room,
picking the lock like a young Houdini.

One slender arm circling
her burgeoning belly, she
slipped through the darkness,
down the stairs.

Maybe he waited for her, perched
on the hood of his blue Chevy,
collar turned against the swirling
snow, cigarette glowing
against his beautiful smile.

Maybe she ran to the corner
where his father’s Buick paralleled
the curb. Did he reach across
the seat, twist the handle, and say,
“Baby, baby, you made it!”?

Maybe they hurried to the alley
where his battered Ford truck idled,
her trembling hand clasped in his.
He gunned the motor, and by morning,
they had crossed the state line.

The other girls believed in maybe,
clinging to the possibility,
until the day finally came
when each forged her own escape,
belly deflated, arms empty.


Kim Zach is a writer whose work has appeared in U.S. 1 Worksheets, Genesis, Clementine Poetry Journal, Clementine Unbound, Adanna Literary Journal, and Bone Bouquet. Her poem ‘Weeding My Garden’ was nominated for a Pushcart prize. She is a lifelong resident of the Midwest where she taught high school English and creative writing for 40 years. She currently works as a book coach, giving other writers the support and guidance they need to complete their projects, whether fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. You can read more about her at kimberlyzach.com.