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18 the minnesota review Ioanna-Veronika Warwick The Cleaning Woman Taking a shower once— it was April, I just turned seventeen— I saw the cleaning woman on the sill of a corridor window, a wet rag in her hand, that huge immobile face and body, staring at me. I thought she'd turn away her eyes, but she kept staring as I stood in thin fog of steam, the hand-held shower riding my skin in translucent rivulets. Only when I stared back and slowly covered my breasts, she clambered down from the sill. I thought she'd never been young—how could she have been?— wheezing through the corridors like a large, passive animal, sad and sweaty, married to a drunk who beat her— she came bruised sometimes, one eye shut with a fist— what went through her thickness when she saw a young girl's body, the untouched roundness, waist rising like a stem— Warwick 19 I stood naked before the cleaning woman— her bloated, battered bulk, her hand with the rag filling up the whole window, raw and red— When you say you love me, you have to include her. The Class Photograph It ought to show the great head of the Czar, children asleep in his beard. Or the monumental head of Stalin, happy youngsters leaning around his mustache— not this Victorian three-tier arrangement in the schoolyard. A few children are smiling: the class bully, square-faced and square-shouldered; a tall, skinny girl spidery in old-fashioned round glasses; a chubby Jewish girl topped with a wide ribbon bow. The rest of us are somber and clenched. "Don't move!" the photographer commands. We don't move— girls in regulation coats, boys in short pants. In the top row my childhood sweetheart stands at attention like a soldier, 20 the minnesota review biting down his lip. Near him, another boy slumps like a mis-strung puppet. I sit in front, in rolled-down stockings, glancing askew toward the camera. The smallest child, a sickly girl with stick-like legs and arms doesn't look into the camera at all. Oh, we skipped rope during recess, raced to the fence and back. Why do we stand in the photograph as if on the edge of a disaster? Was it being hit with a ruler on the hand, getting a C double minus for a drawing that exhausted a rainbow of crayons? It was something scarred, something in the air— our mouths full of ash, the whole country saying, "Just eat your food and be thankful." ...


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