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.
Here, the Sparrows Were, All Along
Every minute or so, a hallelujah
dies in someone’s mouth. Every minute or so, a gunshot.
A ceasefire. A tire shreds
on the highway, & pieces flit like sparrows
across the sky. Silly me. I thought
we were here to live.
The garden’s hallelujahs: tulips & rhododendrons, alive
in the ground. We expect so much
of life. Once, I was a child. Then, a child
was locked inside me. Now, a different
country claims us. Tie my hands
to the wind. Strip my mouth of any country
that doesn’t fit. Sorrow the sparrow’s
steel cord & textile torso. Its irrational wings.
The problem with flying is most people
settle for land, no matter how often
we are unloved by land.
Rewind the centuries:
before planes, the accidents of a gun,
or mouth, or gentle morning, how many people
believed they could fly? Breaking gravity,
what names did they cry when they took that first step
away? Listen to me. I’m telling you
what only the wind knows—
here, the sparrows were, all along. Nailed
to their species. Alive, or not
alive. Sometimes, not alive at all.