Jalovina

By Katarina Vuckovic

This five-year old never left.

She waits by the yawning window,
white-linen wings kissing her bare arms,

room of soup-bones, cigarette smoke and turpentine,
baka’s Tear of Kosovo etched into her memory.

She waits in her sandbox building fjords and orbed moats
to Canada, too wet for baka’s old bones.

She gathers wishing rocks, plums liquefying into human arteries, not yet
contaminated with radioactive uranium-235.

She whittles the wooden barrel of her gun under baka’s bed sheets roasting,
air-fiddle and woodwind hanging war and love on the line.

Exoskeleton pressed behind rust spreading in sheet metal, fenced footpaths in
bulrush hacked by soldiers, used by children.

She lingers at the edge of the Jalovina, tailings and slickens of
cobalt and zinc, sunset colors dripping on a Balkan playground

overrun by forget-me-nots – baka’s flowers, five cerulean petals for every year
before she left.

Ethereal body wedged between two suitcases in red fiat
roasting on the spit, eyes silver flames burning holes in her parents’ heads;

foot contracted above petal, human hesitation. In the rearview mirror,
baka’s eyes glacial melt water staining the asphalt, lifting the car.

‘Just cigarette ash’, she’s told, but knows only heavy hearts can
move so much water.

***

Thirty-five years in the Jalovina where all arteries lead to one beating heart,
where womb licked by sound becomes primal language.
Mother tongue in English,

carving fossils and stones, forming rocks on angles like giant glaciers did once
before retreating back inside.

This Jalovina dusts her every breath and movement, cradles her memories into
the blush of dawn, weaving time, place and origin.