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  • Writer's pictureShawn McNulty-Kowal

Padlocks from Poland

Sometimes I think about all of you. All of you who thought you could get away with it. I think about you and I think of my grandmother. She taught me how to say - I love you  - in the language spoken by a population, downtrodden. A population whose country was more of a plaything. A country left to choose between losing its liberty or losing its soul. She taught me how to say I love you  and it sounded like we were fidgeting with a padlock.

Still fidgeting.

She’d have me make her cups of tea with spoonfuls of honey everyday. My fear always found itself in the thought of mixing in too much. Now when I fill spoons with honey, I fill them so fully and so generously, streams of honey fall from the spoon into ginger tea and turns warm water thick - turns rivers into oceans. Now when I fill spoons with honey and stir tea with a spoon coated with nectar, I drink it and each time my lips hit ceramic, I kiss my grandmother goodbye. She taught me how to say I love you  in the language of her grandmother and I wonder if she drank tea in rite of her - sleepy festivals that coat and guard our throats forever allowing us to say those words.

When I put pen to paper, I am really writing I love you and I am really asking Do you need anymore honey? I like when the moon shines in a dim sort of way behind thin clouds that look like dustballs because it looks like you’re looking up towards the middle of the ocean. The middle of the ocean, where waves take hold of big ships and take possession of a sailor’s memory - excise the memory of her loved ones. When I put pen to paper, I am really writing I love you - I think about you before I sleep and after I open my blinds in the morning.

Poland was once colorful. Poland once looked like a festival. Now it sleeps. Today, it is dull. Today, Poland is the moon or the clouds, the ocean or the feeling. The memory? My babcia taught me how to say I love you in the language I could understand but could not speak. When she had conversations with my father, I could only eavesdrop. I ripped their back and forth into jagged pieces of paper and made myself a makeshift jigsaw puzzle.

And when she taught me how to say I love you,  I put the key to the padlock underneath my sock because I want to fidget with that shackle until our fingers morph into the metal it is made of and harden too. I want to spend my time fidgeting with that shackle alongside my grandmother until I love you  sounds more like honey dripping into warm water. I no longer make my grandmother honey tea, but I drink tea made of ginger and rose hips and turmeric. And I fall asleep to love songs that try to define it, all the while smiling and caressing the soft of my cheek because it is indefinable and it is taking shelter in the folded fabrics of my sock made of merino wool and cotton. I make a muzzle of each step I take and each step I take collapses into Kocham cię.

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