Nona and the Polenta

© Svetlana Moniakova

—For Ian, Sadie, April: your great-grandmother’s story

Lombardia was a banquet
before the Germans carved
the green hills with their black boots,

scooped their pantries bare
with gloved and muscled hands,
devoured their just-harvested wheat.

Theresa had two children then,
their bellies hollow as gourds,
and all those soldiers 

scuttling through her garden,
plucking anything of color,
be it spoiled or sweet, so

she buried a sack of corn meal
beneath a felled chestnut,
in the woods nearby,

hid the laying hen in thorn-sharp briers,
and at night, when silence came
at the edge of crying, 

she disappeared into the trees. 
They hungered for this—
corn meal whispering 

into a homespun bag,
an egg humming in her palm. 
In the morning she would sing

the corn meal into water,
like the time before war,
when her mother stirred 

the same wooden stick
in the same clockwise circles. Comfort,
on a battered wooden table. 

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