After a funeral, paperwork sits at the end of desk rows. Undertakers pause to change suits before shift handover, diesel engines flatten down places of rest. Glass, iron, gravel. Machines know: cities grow in negative spaces, oil traces gift buildings with signs of the cross. Gliding hawks operate traffic for clear passage. Night drops its guard. Machines argue. Power cuts add imagination to people's lives. So much for ending day's work seeking dawn. © Maria Stadnicka, 2021. Published in Shearsman 129 & 130, October 2021.
I am seven, I have committed a crime and I am going to prison where my brother won’t visit for fear of being locked up as well. My mates say if I stare at the classroom walls Mister Williams can’t read my thoughts; a plaster-god weaved a shield around my body that made me invisible.
Open your Bible at ‘Exodus’ chapter ten, paragraph four, he says.
[…and Moses answered: Oh, God, I am slow of speech…]
I spent so long in the company of my laptop that I am becoming a keyboard. I jump over squares in conversation when real things are the wrong way around. They are so loud it is impossible to miss them even if I can barely see at all. Each shortcut leads to a mistake I had made, to a crime I will commit.
Press “space bar” to be born.
Press “escape” to swear in emojis.
I bear the weight of a full stop God’s tongue drops on my back. I trusted God to wake me up for school with a packed lunch. At breaktime I hear rumbling and my heartbeat. Mister Williams warned me: when you get upset your heart grows a claw which pokes at the ribcage until you pass out.
To avoid passing out, I have stolen a girl’s lunchbox. I am a thief who will go to prison and die hungry.
How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?
It gets lighter. I eat my past in small bites and praise the Lord.
© Maria Stadnicka, April 2021
When I get lonely, I visit my local tip. Apart from Wednesdays, I am guaranteed to find someone about, willing to help me get rid of a load of stuff which, up to that point, had prevented me from moving on in life. One time I discarded so much of my old junk that back home I noticed the front door sign was gone, and the post box which had my name on it. I got in and a woman I’d never met before was moving about hoovering. She was wearing my shoes.
© Maria Stadnicka January 2021
ask about someone lost
in an escape gone wrong /
they will point at a place
of returning where things
talk themselves out of paper
so loudly it is impossible
to miss them even if you can
barely hear at all / peculiar how
eternal-now locks everything
indoors / before too long
hair grows in old toys
in furniture without memory
© Maria Stadnicka, January 2021
(for F. M. )
after many hospital visits
and the nurse has left a message
that you are now an embryo.
Chromosome – parity – sequence:
one, two, four then another snowfall
before your mother and I buy curtains.
It is a strange place for snow, our road,
our house and the courtyard with dried herbs
grieving for your lateness. Miracle Grow.
In hindsight, if magic existed
it would have been weaponised by now.
Trust science with your heart,
grow spare valves, ventricles for all the lies
the world tells you. The biggest deceit is
that your future is set in stone.
© Maria Stadnicka, January 2021
We’d have peace if we meet
at a cemetery, she says,
but once there graves open,
the dead ask for headlines.
The good news is that I am
in the same place as Moses
walking around life when
sands shift. I reach my desert
retouching roots that match
the colour of parents’ home.
I forgot where they live now;
as close as my skin, as far as
a memory from when I was five.
There must be a house nearby
where someone stays awake
to warm up bottles of milk.
Instead of looking for it, I hold
a telescope aimed at the sky
marching past stray pebbles.
© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020
A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down during an anti-racism protest in Bristol. The incident opened an ideological war in my household. We go over the pros and the cons of public disorder acts, we discuss the moral arguments which might justify or condemn these acts, while the Home Secretary, Priti Patel stands in Parliament reproving the thuggery committed by the Bristolian mob. Mayor Marvin Rees takes to national media to disapprove the protesters’ acts of violence during the past weekend. Social media is blasting. Opinion is split. Some ask for prosecution of violent mobsters, others express a sense of connection with the symbolic point made by protesters.
In Bristol, Colston’s statue went down in a matter of minutes, with the authorities’ disapproval. I remember that it took Ukraine 27 years to decide the removal of the infamous statues of Lenin from all its towns and villages. In 2017, all 1,307 statues went down, quietly and slowly, as a sign that Ukraine was finally ready to condemn its pro-soviet past, and to move on. The Ukrainian government went further and renamed streets, urban areas, parks, schools, in a national attempt to heal past injustice and loss of lives during the Soviet Era.
At my dinner table, the conversation is about the role of a peaceful protest in well-established democracies, as the Home Secretary carries on with her speech about the peaceful dialogue which needs to happen in our society. I’m reminded that we have structures in place to make peaceful changes under the common law, and following policies and procedures that safeguard equality in this country. There is a well-known corporate jargon about ‘using the right channels’ which is invoked on occasions when discrimination and inequality are at the centre of disputes between people, groups, societies, organisations.
Each private, public, voluntary, religious organisation, each workplace, each adult, teenager and child knows at least one principle of equality. And yet, the more we know, the wider the social divide feels to those who have been, at least once, at the receiving end of inequality, of discrimination or injustice.
If we were equal, we should not need to be taught equality by the Home Secretary, as it would be an inherent quality of our social actions. Yet, Power teaches equality lessons using the boot of law against ‘thugs’, ‘criminals’, ‘mobsters’. A sign that we are not ready to recognise the injustice and its roots, nor to break free from past mistakes.
© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020
2020 catches me off guard. I finish a glass of red wine and start my list of New Year resolutions brushing my teeth. My dentist suggested it, to prevent staining. Spitting paste foam in the sink I notice my second watch shows one past midnight. British time. On the other wrist, my first watch shows one past two. The time in the country I grew up. Youngsters already pissed pints on street corners, on the way home after celebratory fireworks. The end of a decade and all I’m thinking about is how lonely must have been for Ian Seed to share a hotel room with a woman he’d never met. And all due to a booking error.
© Maria Stadnicka 2020
! Recommended reading: Seed, I. (2018) New York Hotel, Bristol: Shearsman Books. [TSL Book of the Year 2018]
When I was a child and lived in an overheated three-bedroom second floor flat, my brothers used to make water bombs. They would fill plastic bags up with cold tap water, tightly knot them, and throw them over the bedroom window every time they would see a pretty girl crossing the alleyway underneath. The water splashed all over the victim and they laughed their heads off, behind curtains. This detail came to mind watching the Brexit process taking place, month by month.
On reflection, the ‘hahaha-hihihi’ is coming this time from Downing Street as I get on with my form-filling life.
It’s has been hot recently (anyone noticed?!), even I can admit to that, and I’m used to Siberian summers. However, the heated discussions among the ministerial flock have raised the warning level from orange to red as nobody seems to have a clear view-point, nor an exit plan or a rescue package. It feels more and more like we’ve all been hoarded up into a long-haul flight, with a crew of unqualified attendants. In case of crash, it’s going to be ‘each to their own’.
Earlier in the week, the BBC mentioned how the PM is risking a revolt (I wish!) if the ‘type of Brexit she promised is not delivered’. Come on, Duncan, calling the PM ‘insolent’ on Twitter will not bring a velvet revolution. When Tusk issued a ‘last call’ at last week’s summit in Brussels, he didn’t mean your plane to the Maldives was about to take off. He meant business as you were about to sip another cooling lemonade. Last Saturday, a ‘livid’ Gove physically ripped up a report (did he really?!) for a new customs partnership with the EU. Qui prodest?
I get to understand miss Vicky when she said we needed a ‘practical, pragmatic deal that gives certainty to business and trade… not an ideological one’. The only things with it is …. everything on paper stays on paper and, therefore, is ideological. I’m back, for now, to reading Nausea. It makes, by far, a clearer point.
We are about to leave, I’ve got used to the idea by now, but there isn’t a destination on sight. We might find ourselves flying over the European economic space until the engine runs out of fuel. And then, let’s see who’s got a parachute.
©Maria Stadnicka, July 2018
published in ‘International Times’ / 3rd July 2018
The box arrived. The first books now being sent to the British Library. And, in the middle of it, a new poem published this morning in ‘International Times’ – the newspaper of resistance.
‘A Day at the Office’ – pre-election dossier.