Petal Journal

Cira Nickel


every Sunday
my sister and I walked
down the nave of our local cathedral
on Flores
         of the seven islands of the Azores

the click-clack of our shiny daughter shoes
as we timidly passed the stained-glass Lady of Seven Sorrows
on our way to receive bread and wine

our boney knees shifted—
         baby ringed plovers and
         swaying palms gently brushing against the church walls
called us to them

when I was 12—
unlike the island birds that never leave—
we migrated
west across the big sea
to a cold city
with strange trees

in the all girls school
nobody understood our words

the nuns took away our brightly-beaded bracelets
         told us to be like Mary
         who washed the feet of Christ with her hair

every Tuesday I dutifully scrubbed the corridor leading to the chapel
from time-to-time
a black balloon and a dozen red roses floated towards me—
         I closed my eyes tight and thought of my dead father

a grown woman,
               my sister still hasn’t adjusted

a wraith in the garden mist
she silently hovers over withered hydrangeas
and spikenard
               —flies patter over her eyes
               flutter around her brain

I kneel inside with my back to her
my fingers bleed as I scrub our trodden floor boards—
            with the clouded sun on my back
            I feel my bones turn to salt

Cira Nickel is a poet and artist living in Toronto.