Agnieszka Tworek

Lady of Laughter

Teresa never went gray.
Her laughter dyed her hair black
each time a single silver thread appeared.

When her husband drank so much
that even his crops were flooded with booze,
she carried him home on her Atlas-like back.

She was the village stand-up comedian,
performing on the dirt road
and on a horse-drawn wagon.

Her laughter built the house.
Her laughter baked the bread.
Her laughter even mended the sky’s torn dress.

Whenever she opened her mouth,
the windows of each house would be splashed
with unwashable laughter.



In the Clouds of Motherhood

My tongue strikes my teeth,
as if they were typewriter keys,
and writes about my hunger for time.

A robin on a rhododendron
writes itself through the window
into my eye.

I hold my infant son on my lap,
my fingertips draft a chapter
of his journey on his back.

He turns to me. With his lips around my breast,
he swallows the milky cursive alphabet
and reads me.



Leaving the Town of Flower Elephants

Once upon a time, I lived in a town
where two elephants made of flowers
taught me to form metaphors and dream
of winged planets that birds mistook
for older siblings. I read in trees
while biting into apples. Robins and bumblebees
showed me how to speak in tongues.

On All Souls’ Day, while visiting
graves, I looked for a gate
to the world without passports.
I studied atlases in a country attic.
In the back yard after the rain,
I marked a border in the dirt around five snails.
When I returned from lunch
the snails went away, chased by a caterpillar.

Before I left for America, an x-ray
showed networks of roads inside me,
cobblestones echoing with footsteps,
boulders to push, Montaigne’s essays,
mangoes, a bay with a bench, and a wooden stage.
The doctor wrote me a prescription,
but a pharmacist couldn’t read her handwriting.

As my farewell, I visited a grove in my grandma’s
village, recorded my voice onto the stump
of the fallen birch, and covered it with moss.
Later, ants would swallow the grains of my voice
and for days walk like drunken ventriloquists.


Agnieszka Tworek was born and raised in Poland. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Sun, Spillway, and The Best American Poetry 2018. She is working on her first poetry collection. She lives in Vermont.