St. Petersburg

by Kelle Groom

I forgot how to steer
under the awning of arms,
the church empty

like the old hotel in the rain.
Our van had died
on the street in sheets pouring

so hard we couldn’t see
anything except the height
to our right, a door. Luckily,

the hotel was open in the off
season and cheap though it felt
like a castle faded with flowers

in the carpet and walls, white
tub clawing the floor. On the bed,
my boyfriend plucked my eyebrows

for me, a man who would do
anything, like a slave almost,
but I thought this was love,

that I would do the same
when someone called my name,
the hallways mirrored

in gold, another country
spired and gilt.
We ate sandwiches on top

of an office building, a church
below, and when I circled it,
a broken Christ stood, one arm missing.

The last time I was in church,
my son had died,
people gave him flowers,

the racketing was inside, birds
flying through the door
of my body, beating

to get out. But in this church without
people it’s quiet enough
to hear the grain of wood,

like when I was a child
and let the crosses and stars,
the moons and people of the door

put me to sleep in a forest
where trees
steadied me, as if someone

had reached out, the muscle
in his arm
in the palm of my hand,

so that I could get out
of the boat for a moment
while it took my son away.

Last updated July 24, 2011