Not a southern legitimacy statement, but a statement nonetheless: I was born and raised in Olsztyn, Poland. I studied history at UWM in Olsztyn and currently live and write in Gdansk.
It would take two flights of narrow stairs below the street.
The room filled slowly until obstinate gravity suffocated all thoughts.
The teacher, usually the last to arrive, entwined new vocabulary
with sparse grammar and occasional syntax. His eyes pleaded for air.
He was our only hope in this new, brave world where all dreams could be had
in exchange for hand washed dishes in sinks filled with razor sharp
leftovers until three am.
By the end of the class dry skin would peel away like a glove
and my hands, pink and wholly new clutched at the pen circling the prey.
I thought that finally, not much can hurt again.
Scrubbing floors on knees and elbows
with a pinned smile or pretended comprehension or agreement
to whatever is said comes down to renting own body out by the hour,
day in and day out and not even a handful of words can preserve
the shape of one’s soul. Promising good work or hard work
or any work at all becomes a second nature. Invisibility is
not a superpower.
Yet, I still liked to dream. The teacher talked
and whispered. Idle verbosity cooled the mind like a wellspring
and I was able to look to the future – a boy
with feathers for his arms, naked and torn and soaring
in a sudden grasp towards the promise of a peaceful return home.