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Maria Stadnicka


I went out to town and took pictures
of people in queue at the shopping mall.
A third of them had been there since Friday;
pilgrims waiting for new prayer beads.

They sat on the pavement holding
their thoughts in tightly zipped handbags.
The sun kept quiet in one corner watching
the autumn busking outdoors
when a beggar stopped, asking everyone
for directions to the nearest abattoir.

Nobody knew precisely where the roads led
but smiled back at him
through the surveillance cameras.



Ensemble for Two Pianos

          to Clara and Luca

At first, I counted heartbeats,
checked for sudden changes
in atmospheric pressure
when something told me
you slept too close to water.

Your cries squeezed
the cords of my flesh
until milk-tears would burst.
The primal hunger kept us awake.

With time, I started saving
my last mouthful,
half-swallowed lullabies found you
growing hazel-eyed whispers inside my body.
In crowds, I walked ahead,
my palms sheltered your dreams.
And time watched.

The waters came one night
and touched your back.
The candle’s tip turned off
the promise ‘I’ll keep you safe’…
those words before a door was shut.
Time knew you’d leave by morning.



That afternoon

when sister Loretta said I had a.i.d.s.
and sent me to the back of the class
during a cooking lesson, everybody laughed
‘cause I corrected her saying ‘you should
pronounce it ru:leidz’ and showed her
the slice of cake I’d been keeping for days
in a pocket, in case father turned up
to take me back home; but she’d have
‘none of that nonsense’ from me
and I knew, by the end of the class,
that she meant I was somehow’bit special;
some older orphans walked gently past me,
pointing at the red blister on my forehead.
When they got in the court yard
I could hear them shouting ‘she’s doomed!’
and I felt rather proud that someone
thought to give me a name and it was
something else other than ‘dog.’


Copyright © Maria Stadnicka, 2019