My wife

will call out to our child with the right accent, for its name
will not be American.

I would need to travel back in time to pronounce it just so

but the language the child knows from birth
in the Old Country
will shape its jaw

                            and the countenance of those ancestors
in the clouds will come alive.

Great-Grandpa Krist...his first wife, before Katerina, died in childbirth
with the baby. I'm sure he would have chosen to die. Instead, he
set out for America.

Day by day he watched his wife
become a mother.
Then, he abandons home. How not to?

Somewhere in Milwaukee lies a rotten hull of a ship
where my great-grandpa forced hope
on himself, then struggled up to the island
that is America.

My wife asks me to feel the baby inside
and to listen. Sometimes, when her belly is quiet, I think
both have died.
That they will go on expecting right into the dark.

                                                                                             Then a beautiful rain of hiccup
and heartbeat comes and I know a new home is ahead.

Krist, I got a family coming now, and we are going
against wishes.

What was your baby's name to be? You brought danger
to your wife. We all do. Babies come out, we know that one thing.

                                 Even now we are warned
about ways our baby could die. Reminded
of how bad people
have it outside America.

They have in mind, I think, us godforsaken immigrants, Krist.



"Manzelka" is one short section of a of a book-length manuscript, Ouisconsin: The Dead in Our Clouds. The main subjects and elements I combine in the manuscript are: the spirit of clouds, immigration (particulary those immigrants from my own ancestry, Czech and Slovak), Americanization, farming, pollinators (bees and butterflies), Native American mythology, and geography (Wisconsin). So far, writing the poems I find they are the way to establish my appreciation, and settle my differences, with my homeland; the book is investigative—writing it is the best way to learn about the place of Wisconsin.