“How To Tend a Zombie: Prose Poem” by Elizabeth Upshur

“Zonbi” by Wilson Bigaud, 1939

How to Tend A Zombie: Prose Poem

I saw my grandfather move a mountain in the country. It took a week, but he smashed the boulders, cut the trees, and wheelbarrowed the dirt and small stones until the mountain was sold away to people who wanted only certain parts of it; timber, stones, topsoil. His hair was grown, long and white in a sad, matted Afro and beard, his white shirt bleached harshly by the sun pouring down while the man with white eyes directed him to work. No one believes me when I say that my grandfather is this man’s zombie, crawling into a little basement door marked, “Ola-loa-alo”, or spirit, mixed up two ways, a mirror of the way a person’s soul and body are mixed up to make a zombie in the first place. People say, oh, my job is working me to death, while a zombie is worked even in, and all the way through death by a bokor, who robbing them of peace in the afterlife. I hate this man, who made my grandfather sicken and die, made his breath disappear like a breath-tracing on a car window, made his body half wake up from the Saint Michael the Archangel church graveyard. Made him his until the day this bokor died, this white eyed monster-man with a tuft of hair like a fox’s tail sticking out from under his canvas hat, minding him with that perverse psychic connection borne of a murmur of French chanting and white-blue paste he smeared on his throat. That throat that once sang in choir, taught me how to whistle, said, you can pick out any toy in the mall for my birthday and I picked a little doll made in China with a pink polka dot dress. Made in a factory an ocean and a continent away from me, her dress maybe stitched by hands as small as mine. Smaller, maybe. I see the bokor make him wear a hat that matches his when he takes him on walks to keep his legs fit, saw him rake his nails into the zombie’s arm when he absentmindedly slipped one foot into the river. He cursed, and when I said some of those words back in our house when my sister stole my doll, my mother says we do not say words like that, because they aren’t fitting for young girls.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Upshur is a Black Southern writer and lover of all things zombies. She is the inaugural winner of the Brown Sugar Lit Mag contest and is currently working on a chapbook on colorism. You can follow her on Twitter at @Lizzy5by5.

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