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 mother’s, but mine—felt 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
that, while dead, are to be loved,
tacked to the wall
like a shred of a girl’s 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 Schooner, Short FICTION (England), and Gargoyle Magazine, among other journals and anthologies. She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with her fiancé and their tortoiseshell cat, Circe.