bajka

in the aftermath 
of my faceplant 
the world sparkled 
and danced;

summer had settled
into cicada song
and cloudless skies. 

trees dared me
to climb 
them. 

fence tops were
accessible high 
wires.

hours barricaded
within school schedules 
now flexed
and flowed,

adventures marked the days
not homework,
not chores. 

neighbours reported 
fleeting glimpses 
of a wildling 
tumbling
through yards

and 
hedgerows.

sunburned and
scampering,
that was me,
5 minutes ago. 

somewhere 
off to my left 
the growing 
siren 
of my grandmother's
distress 

uncoiled
spinning both
warning and
woe. 

any movement
sparked starbursts
and 
pinlike 
nips

up and down
my neck. 

i considered 
the small bits 
of my teeth
floating 
between
gums 
and
lip.

some grains 
were
odd
puzzle pieces.

others slid 
aimlessly 
and escaped down
my throat. 

i was bleeding
and worrying

and hoping 

that the
remaining weekend
would not 
be spent indoors, 
recovering.

the couch 
in the upstairs 
bedroom 
was 
not comfortable. 

and 
it's secret 
fold-out identity 
of 
broken springs 
and 
sinkholes

now taunted me. 

my eyes locked 
on a swaying 
milkweed. 

the white tuft 
bursting out 
of the paisley 
cone 
seemed to be 
pink hued.

obviously 
I had forgotten 
how to
colour balance.

fence balance too. 

years later 
my grandmother
would recount 

that 
it was the 
dull thump 
that drew her out

of her garden 
away
from her onions and potatoes,
instead of
my wailing. 

the back door
never closed
right or tight

and mystically
it was somehow
an auspicious
invite to 
guests.

and she never
liked her 
neighbours.

ironically, 
I’d argue instead,
I never cried out
and definitely 
did not remember 
hitting
my head. 

I could taste
and smell sweat, 
blood,
and dirt. 

I was hurt,
but also knew 
what it could
mean

for the remains of 
the day.

and injury
was only made
more real 
by an elder's 
appraisal.

co zrobiłeś?-what have you done? 

she’s talking to me. 
becoming undone.
admonishing herself. 
crafting an alibi. 

premeditation,
accusation, 
deference,
and pretext defense,

all sweating through
the Polish 
equivalent
of 
WTF 
just happened?

I wiped the edge 
of my lip.

the soft underparts
of my tongue snagged
a bit 

on something 
sharp.

looking back
there really is 
no maximum number 
that

5 year olds must
answer for the line
'Haven’t I told you
before?'
or 
'What happened 
this time?'

but guaranteed
the universe conspires
against worried 
adults

convincing them 
the importance
of results
over show.

and that
the best course of
action when 
consoling
a crying child

is to ask
‘Didn’t I tell
you though?’

my babcia- 
sturdy, strident, 
and imposing
appeared 
at the patio's
edge.

she held a large 
knife 
and a grim
grin to match. 

i had a sense 
that 
further injury
would be dispatched
and
may be necessary in
order to disentangle
me 
from the brambly
thatch.

it was better
that i tumbled left
into the hedge, 
and then over
the concrete wall,

not right. 

lying beside it,
holding 
my breath,
eyes closed tight

I was sure I’d
disturbed 
the devil
inside
of that
blue barrel.

if I had even
nudged
the fly screen
protecting the
homemade raspberry 
babuni

burping in the 
mid day sun
my dziadek
would have sensed
it. 

summoning him
from his work
shed 
before dinner
was dangerous. 

i know the 
old stories. 

i feared the 
old stories. 

the tales of anger
and alcohol 
tempered 
by absolution and impunity
were canon. 

the blade 
she held was
preternaturally 
long. 

it was made to kill
giants 
not chop dill. 

still
it’s existence suggested
something 
more mundane.

that my babcia
had been
trimming the stems of 1000 tomatoes
or
cutting swathes of upholstery 
or
stain scraping her plywood cutting board 
or 
cleaving meat for patyczki. 

her cat scratched 
bare arms and
soiled apron were
earned from
earnest
earthen work. 

I would be told later
in life that 
the knife 
was a first 
purchase

when they moved
to Canada. 

it held the title
of first born 
amongst
other household
tools, 

long before
there was even 
a house 
to hold. 

it seems more
likely
it had been pulled
from stone 
than a
thrift store for
a couple 
of bucks. 

it was forged
to separate.

the blade's purpose
was inarguable.

like how a 
sports car evokes
speed even when 
standing
still.

dazedly i realized 
in relief
that 
I had never 
seen 
my dziadek
holding 
that knife. 

bądź cicho!- Be quiet!
Then, just- Cicho!
Chodź tu- come here!

my brain could not,
but my body somehow
complied. 

enthralled
i shuffled up 
before
her 
stuffed with fear
and tried
to will myself
to disappear.

the knife 
upright
and turned 90 degrees
no longer posed the 
same threat 
to me. 

i could just barely
see 
a murky
slim sliver of
my reflection above
it’s wooden hilt. 

a hand clamped 
to the back of 
my head
and tilted.

the flat side
of the blade
pressed into my
nose from tip
to brow. 

I’d seen this same
treatment 
of herbs
and garlic 
on the
chopping block. 

was this their pain
too?

my mom arrived
in time
to hear my
cries-
no babcia
don't cut off 
my nose!

I tried
to get free
my mom
met her mom's
eyes

instantly

she chose
stillness 
over me
and allowed
the treatment
to proceed.

na obrzęk-for the swelling.
she nodded
and so did my mom.
I sobbed.

she checked my eyes,
then over her
right
shoulder at the
work shed. 

my bruised brow 
slowly forgot
it’s trauma. 

somehow 
the cool pressure
released the weekend
from its carceral
future.

fear and relief
fear and relief
fear and relief-

waves that I
somehow craved,
washed over my
face.

the snide
pull out

couch's grip
slowly faded
from the
afternoon.

this was not my 
first lesson 
in bottom cupboard
first aid.

honey and onion for 
a sore throat. 
brandy for colds. 
for an upset stomach, coke. 
cabbage for sprains. 

magic remedies
for needless injuries
and imagined pain
I seemed
to inflict 
regularly
on myself.

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