Theodora Ziolkowski



On the farm of her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan,

my mother and I dug a hole in the lane to fill with


our treasures: two electric-blue bracelets we would

wish upon, cover with dirt, then move on. I laid down


my bangle as carefully as if the ceremony were my own,

eternal burial, and it was as if another child


not my mothers, but minefelt us there. As if

just through breathing and the act of burying,


the thought of this child reared up like a paper doll,

deeming herself ready for the making.



A Place Made Red


I remember watching my daughter in the pool, how she climbed

            from the water

and how I imagined her tasting the chlorine

            on her skin.

Walking side by side in the storm, she held the rain

            in her palms. So clean,

she had always been clean

            and Slavic-looking, her eyes green

in the sun but darkening in the stillness of morning

            when she was afraid to be loved.




My daughter Sofi is told to count to herself.

At ten she will be calm.

At ten she can come back to me.


Every Christmas we crunch

            through our neighborhood

and pause before the nativity set of electric

            Jesus Mary and Joseph glowing bright

            as cartoons in the snow.




Sofi, in your photographs

you are looking at us serene

in a roomful of dolls. Rapt,

you are looking to be seen.


Now I claw for you. In dreams

I see islands and bodies fade

while they glide and they sink

with you, your face a shade.



Early December, I think of Persephone

falling into hell,


a place made red

by her youth, her silence.


This body is no longer hers,

but holy as a crown.



The birds did not flock to these walls

            but had been captured,

stuffed, speared to foam board. Behold two

            sparrows entwined

that, while dead, are to be loved,

            tacked to the wall

like a shred of a girls dress.




Gretel Grows Up


Terrible thing when you discovered your car jacked up,

its front tires missing   I remember how you stood

in the dim, wearing only one sock as you surveyed

the mess    On the pavement all the neighborhood children

were drawing flowers and dogs with chalk    For a while

there was a painting in your room: two children crossing

a bridge    I thought of them as sisters until recently

I noticed the younger child is a boy, the older one facing

away from us the girl, her tidy apron and blue ribbons

what memory had dressed both with   Sometime

before dark you appear on the porch, press your head

to my knees    What is life if not in pursuit of something,

anything    I wanted to make for you a gingerbread cottage,

warn you to lock the doors and forget what shakes beyond

the candied panes, as I told you to go home and to take

your losses with you    Give them up to the witch


Theodora Ziolkowski's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie SchoonerShort FICTION (England), and Gargoyle Magazine, among other journals and anthologies. She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with her fiancé and their tortoiseshell cat, Circe.

Posted on May 14, 2015 .