I was born in the eye of a koláček––
my jelly center plucked from the trees
in my grandparents’ backyard
or maybe my mother picked the fruit
off the ground, already softened by summer.
I grew beneath the windowsill, a wild strawberry
teasing snails after rain. If a family tends
a garden together, they hope the budding
youth won’t fall far from the tree.
No countertop fan can keep the bakery
from becoming a greenhouse. Koláčky
fill the open crates (no thick glass or plastic tongs
like in America). Swat the masařky away,
and their bulbous bodies will buzz
onto the next soft sweating cheese.
When did I notice thinning linoleum?
The way milk tastes out of a body-warm carton?
When did my English tongue have to muscle
its way into Czech soil?
Kroger peaches dance around the electric
can-opener the way I skirt our razor-edge.
Every third word a buzz-buzz loud enough to wake
the sleeping dough. Yeast packets strew
around the kitchen––clumsy
conversions of grams to ounces.
The air-conditioning sucks in a breath when I walk in;
the koláčky are displayed behind bullet-proof glass.
The billboard’s familiar letters drew me in.
I bite, one peach, please.
I get a Czech-Tex “koláčky”
cellophane sterile and un-declenched cheese
too sweet for a fly. But even a fly trap entices
because it tastes of home. I go
home and press pit into soil, wait for the roots
to hook their pinkies around the strawberry patch,
become trans-Atlantic beneath the branches where
I pick even bruised fruit off the ground.
Carolyn Janecek is a Czech-American writer and MFA student at Colorado State University. Carolyn’s poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Permafrost, The Florida Review, and Peach Mag, among others. Instagram @c.e.writespoems
This poem was previously featured in Ink & Nebula, issue 3 in 2018.