Bitter Cherries It took her a month to buy a salt shaker. One day she had a last eclair with her daughters in town. She left her soul at home on the hallstand and slowly climbed the airstairs to the country of sighing where immigrants go. A walking dead as she was, she had no tears. Her life had stopped. Lunches every other day. She remained a mother on the phone only. When cooking for others, she thought of her family. A straniera has no life of her own. In supermarkets, she would turn around to ask them basic questions: no reply. She gradually built a fictitious prison inside. There she exchanged verbs and cherries with her patiens. There she wrote her heart-wrenching letters. When her elder daughter gave birth to a son, the new grandma had to conceal her intense delight and go on washing the dishes, cleaning the floors as if nothing big had happened. Burdocks You never called her mother and she did not expect you to do so. She was the sharpest woman you have ever known, powerful and smart. Cunningly smart, a ravenous burdock. Everybody in the family was against her. It was she who raised her brothers and sisters after their mother perished. For that, everybody in the village bore a grudge against her. She had sinned and gave up her first child and you had to bear a grudge too. It did not matter the war had just ended. What could one do with the fallen prickly burrs of a heart-shaped weed, seeds that no one wanted? That she consented to your final separation none of your relatives cared about. You were her unwanted surplus of maternity. When she filed for divorce in her forties, she had woven a huge stack of spreads with geometric burdocks, red, purple and blue, one inch per hour, year after year, pairs of each pattern, one upon the other, one for the daughter she had to give up, one for her son, who was to throw her out later, kilims that were meant for you, a strange dowry you have never considered really yours, which she eventually sold cheap to her sisters, a gesture that made you feel atrocious pity for the perfect victim she had become. Have you ever cried over each other’s shoulder? What if this rustling open velcro could keep your hazy memories together?
Monica Manolachi lives in Bucharest, Romania, where she teaches English and Spanish at the University of Bucharest. She is a literary translator and a poet. She has published numerous articles on contemporary poetry and prose, and is the author of Performative Identities in Contemporary Caribbean British Poetry (2017).