A day before her last Christmas
she took me to the butcher shop.
I remember air filled with excitement and smell of blood,
empty entrails and guts being spilled in a bucket
and voices shouting out the size or the weight of each cut.
I remember the knife – long and decisive
and the thought that to know how to handle such a beautiful thing
would make anyone an adult in their own right.
A child was worth an extra ration
so, I was left to queue again – first with the elderly neighbour from upstairs
and then a couple I’ve never met before,
my hand held by strangers.
It was time of rejoicing. Shop apprentices kept laughing
and I filled my imagination with sliced carcasses.
At fishmonger we got a carp.
It was alive, hastily pulled from the aquarium
and wrapped in grey paper
its fishtail was still beating. I clasped it to my chest
and as soon as we got home, I ran a cold bath.
I watched the body with shaved off fins fighting against invisible waves.
The thing pleaded gently,
empty eyes bringing promise of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In the evening we adorned the tree with abundance of colours and shapes
and suddenly she hugged me, her embrace filled with smell of onions.
Afterwards, while we waited for the men to come,
I was allowed to devour a handful
of caramel candy with a cup of hot, sugary tea
among patient, little silences scattered between empty saucers
carefully placed on immaculate, white tablecloth.
Kamil Czyz was born and raised in Olsztyn, Poland. He studied history at UWM in Olsztyn and currently lives and writes in Gdansk.