A Little Bit of Then

The cardboard boxes wilt like flowers
as the rain rains down on California.

A priest bows his head and holds his baldness fast
against the thinning brown hairs of his scalp
as he stoops through the arched opening
of Our Lady of the ladida, ladida…
he can hear old hymns in the patter–
catchier hymns than he’s used to; secular hymns
he once heard in old televised films
that he watched alongside
his mother
and his father
who art in heaven
he hopes.

Across the way, a bagel shop loses power.
Somewhere, far north, a cow has wandered from its field.
All of the world’s children trace raindrops along classroom windows
with their fingers, with their eyes,
placing bets against themselves
over which bits of water
will roll fastest.

Time opens his maw and moths scurry forth.
They’re old souls in light frames. Reincarnation
is an ageless game. I watch them gather about incandescent relics
for warmth, watch them nestle under homes-as-hearth. The water rolls
off of corrugated tin, too far to touch their powdered leaves.

Somewhere it is still 1989. Still 1952. ’35.
Somewhere there we are only just beginning,
waiting to bend our lips and learn
the songs someone once wove
into the patient weight
of passing clouds.

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