Sophia Cirignano

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