By Annabella Mayer


It is a brisk sun-swept morning,
two days before Mardi-Gras, 
and I am eating paçzki,  
pronounced pounch-key
from a stubby Parma bakery 
that sells it in red, white, and blue flavors 
like Piña Colada or S’mores.
As I pour my coffee, caramel-creamed,
I watch boys who look like my brother
die on television. 


War is grey playgrounds and Cyrillic
on faded billboards, letters I used to
trace out in notebooks —
Now I can read my name, nothing else.
Slava Ukraini, heroiam slava.
It’s not my language anyways, 
not my patch of once-Russian earth 
that’s thrashing like a sick dog 
before the shotgun. 
Still, I should cry for it. My mother does. 
She’s cut from Youngstown cloth, 
bread-lines for bedtime stories, 
so curses follow —
Blood grudges bubbling, burning over 
after years in suburban veins. 
The tanks roll in after sunset.  


I should learn Polish in solidarity, 
or attempt Lithuanian. 
I should clip in the too-blonde extensions 
and glittered plastic eyelashes, 
Sell the girl that American men 
like to order online.
I should ask Nana about her family 
and write down the answers, 
tie a square scarf on my head, 
learn to bake kolache. 
I should stop making death half the world away
about myself, for God’s sake —
Take up smoking, or Lenin,
or going to Mass.


My friends spend lunch giggling.
They would dodge the draft, of course, 
in case you were wondering. 
World War Three before winter formal?
It’s just too much!
It’s funny. I laugh myself to tears.

Annabella Mayer lives in Bay Village, OH and is a senior at Bay High School. She plans to attend college and study neuroscience on a pre-medical track while continuing her literary career. This is her first published work.

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