She wouldn’t come – afraid of drowning.
He wouldn’t stay – afraid of soldiers.
He went without her, would send for her later,
no children – still they wanted a future.
He couldn’t look at the streaks on her face,
turned his back and walked away.
His Goodbye is left on her pillow,
hers packed with bread and cheese in his bag.
Strong boots for walking, his phone and passport,
all their savings in a waterproof pouch.
Krople żołądkowe n. Polish (stomach bitters, English)
Krople żołądkowe help for all kinds of pains —
they can release the tightest stomach knots,
pungent, burning your insides.
Mom always told me to have them with sugar,
but healing hurts, so I had them on their own.
Nobody ever tested their effectiveness,
yet we’re all certain that they do work – always.
Krople żołądkowe have serious side effects —
healing bodies, but destroying souls.
They leave unwashable stains,
smelling of Polish meadows, fresh cut daisies
like dandelion seeds carried by the wind,
Physical pain comes out as sneezes and tears,
so it’s good to have them with sugar,
sweeten the taste of longing.
Krople żołądkowe leave stains
in the shape of the time that’s passed.
Refuge was the school library
at breaktime with Claire from maths. For a while I felt safe from my house, where the walls creaked in time with doors that slammed. A teacher said choose a book and hold it tight, close your eyes, count to ten and a room will appear with everything you love. In my room there was a ginger cat, asleep by a window that framed the sea. In the corner was a ballerina turning and turning in a jewellery box and I could hear gulls call to each other, as if they knew my name. Years later when I visit my room there is a photograph of Claire, the one they used in the newspapers. I hope my gulls call to her wherever she is
hope they bring her home.