In Chilling Warmth
Sofia Mauja

"J estem glodny, Matka."

Maryska looked up, the wind whipping and lifting her hair around her head. She felt the hard earth beneath her knees and remembered where she was. Her hands previously clutching the wilted poppies were now leaden with familiar weight.

"Jestem glodny, Matka." The voice softer now.

Her fingers moved of their own will, feeling the small-boned shoulders to the concave slope of the abdomen; meeting, conversing and bemoaning the lost of flesh. Maryska forced her eyes to twin mirrors of her own, finding no words to comfort her. There was no food. There hadn't been any in many months.

Maryska felt a nudge from her daughter and she halted reality. Her mind recalled the last meals that they had had and she began the retelling.

She heard Tecza wistful sigh, imagined her eyes closed from hearing her recollection of dinners past, of times of not so wicked. She knew that Tecza was reliving those same images of cabbage rolls and mushroom sauce, of Tecza's waiting for her father to come home, of him herding them out of the kitchen, showing them their newest strip of ploughed land.

The weight got lighter as her words reached its conclusion: the eaten dinner, the final swiping of pyrogy bread on plates of gravy, the lulling cleaning up noises by both mother and daughter. And finally, the weight disappeared.

The poppies returned, her hands cold once more. She traced Tecza's name on the wooden crucifix. Sleep, my rainbow.

"Spac, mj Tecza."

(Polish to English translations:
Jestem glodny, Matka = I'm hungry, Mother/Mama.

Spac, mj Tecza = Sleep, my Rainbow
The name 'Tecza' means 'Rainbow' in Polish)

First published: November 2001