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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2019 - Vol. 16, Issue 1

"Vajas Kenyer" and "With"

written by

Sarah Varnam

"Vajas Kenyer"

Someone else’s death is present
in a room of glass jars, soft reflections
on curved surfaces, cement underfoot,
flat and grey as faded history.

It’s a room of absences
that I remember but can’t enter
because someone bought my grandparents’ house
years ago.

There’s quiet preserved in the jars
in the cellar room behind the laundry room
that shares a wall with the den where
I used to sit on the couch’s knitted shawl,
pretending to be something wild.

To me, the texture of my grandparents’ lives
is crocheted, years handmade.
I can’t weave an honest tapestry,
their memory half-ravelled.
I use a pillowcase from their house,
covered with the thick bright flowers
of Hungarian embroidery.
I take better care of it
than I do my new sheet set,

but there is still hair dye
dripping a new story
from bright blue tips,
staining tradition.


I lie awake with thoughts that outnumber my heartbeats, tangling the sheets
around my legs while you cradle my moody limbs. You shift your weary bones
to the early morning sounds as the dim sky pales through the window, and I breathe

seeking slumber but taking a moment to savour your nose against my neck, nudging
mice pattering through my veins. You turn and I follow, my arm tucking into the hollow of
your waist.
Your hair tickles my face, and I sink into exhausted, graceless sleep.

Sarah Varnam is a Toronto-based writer, artist, and editor, as well as the founder of The
Quilliad Press. Their work has been published in several journals, including The
Quarterday Review, Litbreak, Third Wednesday, and Transition Magazine. Much of their
work focuses on neurodivergency and feminist themes.

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