There in the pews of the chapel,
crouched on the steps outside in its defense,
behind the pipes of that great organ
which our ears strained to hear,
kneeling on the floorboards that creaked
in reply to every prayer,
whispering melodies from her native country,
I found her.

She taught me
one of those melodies so I sang it,
though my voice cracked and faltered.
Sometimes I forgot the words.
She listened to my own songs,
learned them, echoed them perfectly.
She did not leave my side while I stumbled
over the easiest of hymns,
though my fingers trembled.
Sometimes I remembered every note.
She applauded and I could not
stop smiling.

Once I opened my mouth to offer gratitude
but I wept instead
because I did not have words.

On one cold dead night,
I wandered off the narrow path,
as far away from that chapel as I've ever been.
The woods beckoned with their twisted limbs
as my feet ached to flee those white pillars
just once,
just twice.

There in the mouth of the forest,
crouched beneath branches that barely shielded my quivering body,
behind the hands I clasped together and held up to the sky,
kneeling on the ashes of something that had once burned bright and pure,
whispering desperate prayers in a language no one else could understand
until my throat ached,
she found me.

She gave me
the clothes off her back,
emptied her pockets,
gripped my hand,
led me back to the chapel,
wept with me,
blanketed my cold shuddering body,
hummed one of our songs until I fell asleep at last.

& then
after all of that
with a white cloth in hand
she kneeled at my feet
to wash them.

all this time
I never knew how to thank her.


a/n: I'm afraid this may not make much sense to another reader, since it relies on pieces of real-life events that, obviously, she's already familiar with.