Waiting for Vatrushka
She appears within the small dark angles of the room. My mother floats on the wall in the borderless black and white, perpetually teaching me how to bake delicacies to lure a man. Braid down her back, wilted collar, she crumples over the oven and brushes egg yolk over the crust, filled with creamy curd and raspberries that spill over in her hand. I trace my finger over the dough that glistens with icy milk, the way she traced love lines on palms by candlelight. They are gathered in the parlor, waiting for vatrushka, the kind she made week after week. She is laid out on the table, also waiting, lips crooked and thin like a paring knife. Murmurs susurrate from the other room, guests musing over succulent slivers of farmers’ cheese, tsk tsking over the watery crust, the weak foundation, the absence of a husband. Neither one is real, my mother whose eyes are weighted down by pennies or the one in the photograph draped in darkness. I set my mouth like my mother’s, reach for the dough, feel it moving under my fingertips, resisting, and rising like a lung.
St. Joseph in Juniper
You float suspended in the juniper tree, upside down, head tilted and brush up against St. Gerard, hands crossed, mouths formed in O’s. You swing together, elbows chipped, a gash above your eyebrow, a scraping battle above the withered tomato plants, near the Virgin Mary whose arms cling to the clematis. Rain falls on a slant, misting in through the kitchen window, leaving puddles of mud near the mailbox, the drizzle a mantle on your hair. They told me to bury you, but I couldn’t. I would rather watch you swing, purposeless, see the lines of worry chiseled near your eyes, the rain sting against your stony back.
Susan Isaak Lolis received her MFA from the University of Miami where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. Her novel was shortlisted for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in New Madrid: Journal of Contemporary Literature, Yemassee, and Offcourse. Her short story, “Vivien’s Sister,” won the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction and is forthcoming in Bayou Magazine.