The Invasion of Poland, 1939 by Kyle Hemmings
Her name is Minnie Minski, but she spells it with a y. She works as a cleaning woman, assigned to the third floor of the Algonquin, and divorced from a man who slapped her for not speaking proper English.
Now, turning the key, peeking through, spotting the man sleeping in a king-size bed, him, adrift as the immigrant she once was. She enters. He didn’t latch the chain. Her feet are the soles of squirrels.
She steals cash. Movie tickets. Key chains. Crumpled papers containing phone numbers. Alligator wallets of old photos and registrations. She pulls off and rolls up the sheets stained with dried semen. Sometimes, she stands over their beds while they sleep and thinks: I was once like you.
Back in Poland her mother once said, “After the war, you had to look someone in the eye before you stole.”
In America, you must wait until they are asleep.
She searches his trousers and wallet, her hands so quiet, flesh-turned-to-feathers. She takes thirty-five dollars and not five hundred.
Tiptoeing over, she stands over the man, so much younger than her, his face, like a model, the jet black hair, long, the dimpled tapered chin, . She bends down as if to plant a kiss on his cheek, as if to say you are so beautiful, so dangerously beautiful. But who do you think you are?
There are footsteps approaching.
After crouching, fitting her lithe frame under the bed, she feels she is breathing inside a Russian T-34 tank. She listens to the girl plopping down on the bed, imagines her groping for the man, mounting him, her back, arched, her arms, soaring birds.
Under the bed, she is the missing partner, inserting her silence between the heave and the bounce, between the yeah and the I like it. Isn’t it a great way to wake up, says the girl.
Under the bed, Minnie is the underground flower wishing to grow through the mattress, between the kisses of strangers, the suffocation, the distance. It’s a funny rain that helps her survive. But the sky is vast and it covers the world.
As a child, she always found her way under her mother's bed, the other woman, lying still as a survivor of the Warsaw resistance, her father, the attacker, the bed, a dark immovable cloud, and her--always the pale little flower of an inseparable trio.
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey, where he sometimes skateboards near Branch Brook Park.