Karolina Zapal

Still there are so many fish in the sea. But soon, they’ll start calling me a stara panna, start counting the fish. My grandmother’s friend, on a Sunday stroll with her husband, bends her giraffe neck to catch a glimpse of my ringless finger. Ah, but you look so young. My young look saves me. On the way to the airport, I launch into a speech about how silly it is to marry young. My second cousin, who is marrying his high school sweetheart in July, doesn’t know what to say. Makes excuses in the form of years. Eight of them. His sister, three years older, is the only other one left untreated. She’s my shield. The age gap makes it so she will always be my shield. Except I am penalized for living a more opportunistic life in America. The age gap dwindles to seven hours. Of seduction. I can’t get there in time.

Karolina Zapal is an itinerant poet, essayist, translator, and author of two books: Notes for Mid-Birth (Inside the Castle, 2019) and Polalka (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018). As an immigrant and activist writer, she writes frequently about her native Poland, languages, borders, and women’s rights. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Inverted Syntax, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. She serves as Program Coordinator at the Massachusetts Center for the Book.