My self-defeating belief is
the smell of a thing marks its value, this new book with
clean pages, this frying chicken leg, this final rose of the season,
the color of canned peaches. This morning of fertilized earth and
damp wood bodes introversion and something else, which the
steam of a cinnamon apple breakfast will determine. The palm
leaves we’d fold into crosses and strip fibers from to bind,
my fingers and my sisters’ moving slowly to make the mass
pass. My choices covered in banana peel and onion skin. My
should statements coated in sour, percolating coffee: I should
phrase the email like this, pivot my body like that, fall shouldn’t
end so fast. Nor should the hours of morning before sound
has the chance to catch up to smell. Nor should anything.
My father figured
he’d have retired by now
but, helmetless, he still bikes
to school fused by the red of
his backpack and fleece
to maple leaves.
Bernini knew how to become a papal
favorite. He also knew the face of one
spiritually struck—to be made rippled
like Saint Theresa’s cloak and to be
flattened to a countertop.
A father the shape of an elm tree
ready to give shade or give
way to fall, whichever comes first.
If love then generation.
The cover letter in which I lied
about my passions is my best one yet
because I wrote about my father’s love
for decoding Latin, which is the same love
that led to Cinema Paradiso with my mother
and to me, love which ignorant chance
and good teachers gave.
My father’s heart laid out like a Roman
square, purposeful and full of good questions;
he always claims to know where
my lost glasses are, with confidence
rarely warranted. If God then
cathedral bells—the flowers—filling
basilica towers with musky scent and sound.
He taught me time is a bath and
our fingers prunes, that time is
a gardener whose shears press
against our laurel limbs. Like Peneus,
he told me to call him if I need a ride
if, at any hour, I need an out.
Sophia Cirignano is a recent Religious Studies graduate (MA) from Concordia University, with a focus on queer studies, writing, and teaching. She has been writing poems since they emerged in the form of flip books about blossoming raccoon friendships. Her poems have appeared in Gasher Journal, Apeiron Review, Vantage Point, Asterism Journal, and elsewhere. You can reach out to her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.