and the light from the east
casts kaleidoscoping color on the pews.
The sweet, fermented smell of blooming
yeast perfumes the building,
mixing with incense and rot.
Paulo has returned to his childhood,
twenty-nine years before.
and walking with light feet
to the front pew
where Sister Maria sits,
head down, hands folded in front.
A Rosary pendulum swings.
The caverns of her skin
run long and deep.
He touches her shoulder;
she does not move.
Paulo fears he has offended her
on the day she agreed to teach him
to make her famous sweet bread.
But for the Sister, charity
is sibling to devotion.
After a time:
“Come now. I suppose
you’ve been patient enough.”
He follows her to the cellar
where she moves to the back of the room,
grabs a small barrel of flour
and two wooden bowls.
Placing them on the table,
she peels back the cloth draped over them
to reveal dough
and sprinkles out a handful of flour
on the bench.
Taking the sticky shape
into her hands, she gently kneads it
into a cohesive round
and places it aside.
Paulo mirrors every step.
Before long, the rounds
have doubled in size.
Sister Maria thrusts her fist into one,
deflating it on impact,
nods at Paulo to follow suit.
He slams the hammer of his fist
center mass, pauses for a moment
to watch the glutenous tendrils
rent from the impact
grip and release his fingers.
When he looks up for the Sister,
Flour particles catch light as they fall
back to the table.
He calls for her
as they collect mid-air,
outlining the shape of a body.
The fabric of the room trembles
as the shape points at the dough.
Paulo slams his fist again
but his hand does not stop
with the tabletop, tries to recoil
but his arm’s stuck.
Tries to jerk it free,
but the dough refuses.
Against his will, he’s pulled
face-first into the pulsing mass.
explode their light
across the backs of his eyelids
like a desperate flashlight SOS
over black seas in every direction.
His mind begins to steam,
growing hotter and more porous
until his thoughts are like the air
and disappear into the dark entirely.
held in the amniotic sac of purgatory
for a blissful moment,
The steam of his mind regains form
like a bucket of hot water
slung on a frozen sidewalk
as he lands in bed eight years later.
The air-raid siren of an alarm clock
returns focus to thought
as he rises to catch the train to work.