Issue > Poetry
Nancy Krygowski

Nancy Krygowski

Nancy Krygowski’s first book of poems, Velocity, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from University of Pittsburgh Press. She leads poetry workshops in Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic writing program in addition to teaching English to refugees and immigrants.

Abacus in One Hand, Worry Beads in the Other


If the coal chute door is open, don't worry.
The mice with their corn kernels
and squirrels with last year's Christmas walnuts
have already wandered in the house and out.

The crooks don't know enough about history
to slip to the basement's blackened corner
or are too fat or love a gun's bravado
or are also afraid of the dark.

And my ghosts are here already,
stroking my graying hair
and staring at wedding day pictures
remembering the feel of leather shoes.

Here I go again,
screaming with my fingertips, swimming on my knees,
trying to go back in time, place my rickety heart
in a straw basket that belonged to my mother
and my mother's mother,
pleading with them, please tell me who I am.

   One hung skirts on a line so the wind smoothed
   the wrinkles but left perfect pleats.

   One used rubber bands to hold up flesh-colored knee socks.

   One counted syllables in birds' songs,
   the other, cups of flour, potatoes in the wooden bin,
   days since her last period.

   One pardoned God for giving her a husband who loved seedlings
   but forgot to pick the fruit.

   The other pardoned him for the gift of a daughter
   who rushed into thunderstorms,
   felt her hair stand on end,
   then laugh-screamed her way to safety.

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