Xenia Sylvia Dylag


In the armpit of summer, Kunegunda, a calico stray cat, found refuge in the abandoned church next to the cemetery. She plopped her belly on the cool cement floor between the vegetation that sprang rampant in the sacred space. The inside of the abandoned church had become a garden of human sins sprung into a verdant kaleidoscope of natural abundance.

Wild and overgrown— with no inhibitions.

A form of new life from lives past.

Flowers. Plants. Weeds.

Thoughts and deeds turned into organic matter. Sprouting from the cracks of brick and cement and wood.

Bushes and shrubs of gods with many faces overtook the altar. Thistle and bramble wrapped around Jesus’s body on the cross, each thorn screamed his name in vain. Black velvety petunias whispered mistruths from the seams of the confession boxes. Latticework of wisteria vines wrapped around the pews where thieves shed shallow tears of repentance. Fluffy grass carpeted the walls. Rose petals burst open around the plump columns like an orgasmic cry captured in a moment of adulterous ecstasy. Bright red poppies lined the base of the walls, and lilies of the valley peeked out from behind the stations of the cross. Daffodils, ripe with seduction, spread their petals open to the sun. Birds of paradise, thirty feet tall, stretched straight up to the ceiling of the church. Their beaks animated and alive, reciting prayers to the sky.

A bouquet of exotic aromas.

Full of life and lust and temptation and beauty—

 bare naked and colorful. Nature. Completely unaware of itself.

A faint haze of frankincense and myrrh filled the air. Kunegunda rose and roamed between the scents and sounds until she found another spot to cool her belly. This time beneath a canopy of ivy over the back pews.

Kunegunda heard the age-old whispers of women long dead reciting Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Asking: Father please forgive me for I have sinned.

Words and prayers absorbed into the structure of the building.

Breathing. Pulsating. Springing up and out.

Only Kunegunda heard.     

Only Kunegunda witnessed.

Birds sang and bees buzzed. A dance between bird, plant, and bee.

Kunegunda loved the shape of birds. She enjoyed watching them fly between the flowers as her belly cooled on the cement ground. She watched in awe as their wings fluttered when they stopped to stick their long beaks into a flower. She saw the shape of the bird’s rigid skeleton through its slick feathers and thin skin. Each tiny bone meticulously placed to create the unique structure of its form.

Kunegunda slowly lifted her paw and slapped the bird down in front of her. She ate it whole: feathers and skin and bones.

Crunch. Crunch. Swallow.

On her way out Kunegunda peed on the bramble near the door. Berries immediately sprouted in full ripeness, scenting the air with its sweet smell.

But as quickly as the kaleidoscope of nature sprung into maturity, when Kunegunda left, it all withered and disappeared.



Xenia Sylvia Dylag  is a Polish-American writer, translator, and educator
from Chicago. She received her MFA from the Mississippi University for
Women and MA from Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She’s worked on the
editorial staff of Ponder Review and Poetry South. Her flash fiction has
appeared in Mortar Magazine and The Molotov Cocktail. She currently lives
in Texas.