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From "Secrets"

in the collection Tangled Strings

     The old woman inside my head is banging around like she's arranging pots and pans in there. My conversations with her are imaginary, but she's so real to me by now, she might as well be sitting on my bed. Of course, I don't actually see the old broad, my Polish grandmother. In fact, she probably died long before getting to be an old broad.

     "What is this word BROAD?" she asks me. "Means FAT?"

     "No Babciu. It's slang, hard to explain."

     "So, don't use." Her voice is grandmotherly in the predictable way. Knobby hands kneading dough in an aromatic old kitchen--that kind of voice. Or maybe her accent comes straight from the big screen.

     "I'm a movie buff," I tell Grandma.

     "What means BUFF?"

     Why bother to explain? My imaginary grandma might as well understand slang and be acquainted with movies and mega-malls, Yoga, Google, and Twitter. I've created her, after all, out of dreams and imminent menopause.


     Now I'm heading for the place that first planted the idea for me to stay in Krakow instead of returning home with the others. The sacred and eerie Remuh Synagogue, with its wall of headstone fragments painstakingly cobbled together by Jewish survivors into a mosaic memorial. It's often called the Lamentation Wall. The past year has certainly given me plenty of reasons to lament, but as I walk toward the wall, I feel a sharp poke in my side. Grandma's elbow.

     "Enough," she says. "Woe is you. Cry a river. So, you're not so young anymore, and you've never been successful or pretty or well-loved ..."

     (She's such a comfort to me, my babcia.)

     "But," she adds, "you're ALIVE."

     She has a point there.


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