Earth and Words

but there was a day
when she wanted it most.
It was at the onset of summer.
I remember two bags of food
standing on the sideboard
like two whitewashed soldiers.

When I stepped on my tiptoes,
I could see inside them.
I could smell the food.
A loaf of bread, still warm,
fresh from the bakery,
salami and cheese, sauerkraut.

Every Friday my mother
brought home bags of food,
as if always the same bags,
but these two came home
without my mother.

A loaf of silence peeked
out of them. I touched the bags.
I felt the sadness. I smelled
my mother’s absence.

Her Nonbeing-there was strong,
stronger than her Being
had ever been. There was not
only that Nothing, there was
Something missing.

There was a hole in the clear
air, a hollow in the pale sky,
there was my mother’s voice
on mute. She was there by
not being there and I began
to understand the name of death.

The next morning the bags
were still on the sideboard.
I saw them, and then I saw
my father standing at the stove
and making scrambled eggs.

He always smelled of beer,
but sometimes, like now,
the smell was much stronger.
He was standing there
with his feet apart and naked
torso. His chest was like grassy
knolls – short grass, brown
and dry. His fingers were yellow
from smoking and black behind
the hard shell of his nails.

His thick dark hair was combed
from one side to the other,
as if he’d been standing
in a high west-east wind.
The skin of his arms was dark,
and the muscles underneath
were defined by construction work.
There was a tattoo on his left arm –
the same blue colour as the wormy
veins on the back of his hands.

He did not see me.
I could not see his face.
He was – who was he?
My father. My first love.
My first enemy.

I did not dare ask him what had
happened. He would not tell me
where she had gone anyway.
So, I crouched down in the corner
by the door and watched
his easy way to scramble eggs.

And then, I watched him eat.
The eggs moving in his mouth
like a shuttlecock – from right
to left, from left to right.

The elbows of his hands
were against the tabletop
and the heaped fork between
his fingers was in front of his face
as if watching my father with me.

He pushed the plate aside,
ran the back of his hand
over his mouth and reached
into his pocket for a cigarette.
He lit it, took a long puff
and let out a smoky cloud.

And then he saw me in the cloud.
He looked at me as if at someone
who does not look back – with
wide open eyes and a frozen
face. My tongue was dry, I could
not speak, but I stood my ground.

It was seconds for him, hours
inside of me. My breath stung
against my tongue like a needle
when I ran out the door.



Click here to read Stanislava Haviarová on the origin of the poem.

Image: by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash, licensed under CC.2.0

Stanislava Haviarová:
When you hear music in a dream, you hear it more clearly and vividly than when you remember it. In dreams you don’t need ears or memories. You are composing inside. And so is poetry. You don’t need a story or a pen to write. You need a dream. That’s how my poems come about. They are a way of waking up just to finish the thoughts of my previous selves.

Stanislava Haviarová
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