The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Jehanne Dubrow


Warsaw, 2002

Twelve years ago, I was the little girl

who watched her work. She cleaned my parentsí house,

cooked meals, took care of me. I learned from her

a soft language, each phrase sounding like hush

and the swishing shut of my bedroom door.

This time when we meet, phrases I used to speak,

easily as swallowing mint tea,

taste strange. The words are stale on my tongue and stick.

We stand beneath a farmerís tree to steal

his pears. Taller, I reach the higher boughs.

Small, smaller than I thought, she shakes the trunk.

We laugh as sweet, green fruits tumble down.

She shook me once like this. When I was five,

a butterscotch stuck sideways in my throat.

Her arms were strong from lifting pots of soup

and kneading dough and maybe I felt light,

the breath kept from my lungs. I was her sack

after the shops. Upended. Emptied out.

We must have both breathed then. Against the floor,

an amber candy glistened with my spit.

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