Poppy Seeds

Corina Kowalski

Corina Kowalski

Corina Kowalski is a college student who loves baking, reading, and drinking lots of tea. She hopes to write a book one day, but is sticking to stories for now. Her poem, "Poppy Seeds," was the winning poem in William & Mary's Short Fiction & Poetry Writing Contest, held in partnership with Short Édition.

On Sunday morning the air is sweet,
orange zest and poppy seeds and
flour pushed across the countertop like paint,
my mother's finger-marks running
through the soft white in haphazard circles and a
fat mass of dough sitting contently in the middle.
The kitchen is warm and balmy,
cast in early-morning-sunlight yellow
deepened by the oven-heat.
My mother pushes the dough out at its edges,
flattening it with her palms while I hold my chin in mine,
crushing poppy seeds against my teeth and
watching her.

In the Springtime the creek is warm,
the soft hum of water rolling over stones like glass
being slowly shattered underneath a feather pillow.
My father kicks the dirt away and I
replace it:
cheese sandwiches in plastic bags and
grape juice bottles on a
red-white checkered kitchen towel.
The air is clear and so pure, as if the water was thinned and poured
upwards into the sky, gently, so the world wouldn't think
it was drowning.
He tells me stories of his father and his father between
bites of soft bread and sticky yellow cheese.

In the night-time the air moves through the house
carrying heat on its back, flames cracking
in the living room and against my hands,
fingers outstretched to catch them.
My mother sits beside me warming her feet
and nursing chamomile tea to warm
her stomach. We eat poppy seed-spotted bread,
daughter and mother and buttery forkfuls
melding coolly in the fire-light.
My father has fallen asleep beside
a block of yellow-black bread.
The poppy, I think,
is a homely flower.

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