Names, by Krystyna DabrowskaTranslated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

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By Krystyna Dabrowska, from Czas i przeslona (Time and Aperture), published last year by Znak. Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

Summer, season of watermelons.
And your story about them:
childhood, a nursing home
for the incurably sick,
the white cornettes of the Sisters of Charity
sailing along in the garden.
Your grandpa, who ran the home,
grew watermelons in cold frames.
The sisters would come there
to lay claim to the fruits
 — as yet underripe
on their umbilical stems —
and in careful even letters,
on the melon of her choice,
each would write her name.
Here they had something of their own,
which they jealously guarded.
The watermelons grew, and with them
on the green stripy skins
so did the names, ever bigger.
As if they had broken free
of the nursing nuns,
who wore them modestly like their habits,
and were living a second life
as succulent fruits,
jostling for space among the leaves.
Sometimes the watermelons burst.
A crack ran through the name.
And there inside appeared
the ruby-colored flesh.

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