LANGUAGE IS THE ONLY HOMELAND. (CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ)
Did I expect Poland to bring me back
into the fold? That I could
translate train announcements
because I carried memories
of butter-shellacked pierogis
glistening next to golumpki—
cabbage leaves tucked tight
like hospital corners around rice and beef?
Joke's on me.
Instead, I wander
village to village—
a common tourist eating ice cream
and asking for the bathroom
with my third-generation lexicon.
I make eye contact like an orphan
as if some babcia tottering home
with plastic handles of market bags
hewing grooves in her hands
will recognize the green in my eyes,
announce "Sylvie's girl!",
pass me her burden and show me
home. In her kitchen,
she nestles beets into my hand,
each solidified heart
smelling of words
learned a continent away.
We drink borscht from jelly jars,
chatter about the neighbor's cat
and the center's fountain, still dry.
When her husband returns
from work, he won't be surprised
to see me at the sink,
bare feet on the braided rug,
tossing buttered noodles,
waiting for my attic room to air out.
Aimee Noel writes from Dayton, Ohio. Her poems have been featured on NPR affiliates and published in Michigan Quarterly Review, Witness, Provincetown Arts, Forklift, Ohio, and elsewhere. She earned Ohio Arts Council's 2020 Individual Excellence Award for Poetry and was OAC's Summer Fellow at Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center. Find her at aimeenoel.net.
Previous Poem Table of Contents Next Poem