Church of the Holy Spirit, Rohatyn 1924 You enter to escape the cold & find a canvas of St. John, his hands unsealed to write. Other icons, painted in vibrant reds, mounted on wooden walls’ slick gloss. All white men, suffering and suffered. Christ, stripped. His chest: ribbons of bone. Archangel Michael, Abraham— young boys again. You ask them about hunger. How to outrun changing flags like a child outrunning its name. A war, past, yet still humming. Your mother thinks God must be dead, but you ask the sky to show its hands. For manna to frost the cemetery’s leaning statues, forlorn rows. To frost wood, overrun by lifelines like an old man’s palms. For red water to spill forth from the Hnyla Lypa cursing below, its name already lost on new maps. You search the saints’ eyes before turning, light ivying their faces. You think a house can keep you safe. The bodies, buried. Doors that won’t spit you out. You search their hands, empty as spoons. They can’t take away what you pray. This weight: fist & bone & wail. In their silence, you hear blood, as it spins like air through a windmill’s vanes. As it coppers the chambers, makes them flame.
What does it mean to say we know the properties
of ice, of snow? The wheat berries piled in metal bins
in the silos. The house on a corner lot, properly
broken down, the septic tank leaking
into the closets for years, rats in the attic, box
upon box upon box of belongings that belong
to the long dead. Sex toys and pornography.
Money stashed in old socks. In ties. In tobacco
tins. The house was once lovely. Flower boxes at the sills.
Large picture windows that held up the prairie
sky, faces of the parents we knew little, if at all.
How easily people end up like this, perhaps. We stand
at the tree line, and I can’t decide if Mother’s Ruin
is an appropriate name for gin, or screech,
or every century where someone died bleary-
eyed, a bottle within reach. How do we love
what is damaged? Ahead, the valley rivers through
the city. Ahead, the frozen prairie, the lone cross-
country skier. No one will find us here, I fear.
Here, the world is desperately bare. What now
is the prairie sky, if not another relic, burning?