the deadly memories of childhood spent in churches
feeling safe in a sea of palms and sun.
There is the scent of incense left on my body
following my hands like an angry ghost
why did you run away from this
horde of people ready to love you in every corner of your apartment.
Why did you run away from the streets slick with rain
the grayness of morning after a quick burst of blue sky and light.
He asks me these things
sitting on the stone steps why?
why do birds leave for the winter? the ones who sing?
but the gray pigeons sink into the snow and wait patiently.
He asks me why
I don’t sing
I ask him why
he doesn’t fly
Once, in between sucking on my finger, he tells me that my hands smell good.
I ask him why he doesn’t fly.
And the bells ring on some street far away
and I wonder how many people gather underneath, waiting for their souls to be saved and cram in
and stand and sing and kneel and stand and singandkneelandkneelandkneel
in their small apartments, with small heaters and faded icons hanging on walls
I think of my grandmother, and the rubble on the street, wanting to be saved.
He tells me that there’s a scent I have. I tell him where to buy it and to keep doing what he’s doing—hands clench in his hair. I do not sing.