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.
In the Third Trimester, They Can’t Find a Heartbeat
It is the waiting that hurts. The long weeks
of wanting. Hospice of memory & malice.
I petition the future for more days
without rain. For days without the cries
of blackbirds overhead. They sense
death. They know what we do not.
Any minute, the minutes will lengthen
into a lifetime of forgetting. The oaks lean
into the wind. The river writhes by. The faith-
less sky breaks itself over us. Once
there was a sacrifice for sin. And it was a bull
like this one. A first born. I hear the cicadas,
loud in their fury. The dreams of daughters
that I can’t displace. & I am the pilgrim,
traveling with fever. I am December, cold
in the ground. I want the daughter to emerge
like a white horse in a clearing. To tell me
the story of surrender. But she will die
one more time inside me. One more time,
not a girl, but a dream. An incantation.
A command. Is my body heaven or Eden
or the opposite of god? Some dreams are meant
to come true. At least, I fear that’s true.
And what will be left of me as she comes true?
Cheap thrill. Cruelty. The red garment of my body.
This new absence I’ve been courting
with the purple wounds of the peonies.
The shadows of last year’s fields.