Perspective: By The Light Of A Cathedral

Sep 8, 2020

I often turn to poetry when things fall apart. I suppose it makes me feel less helpless to artificially capture a moment in words as time sweeps something out of existence. These words are no replacement, but for me at least, they’re therapeutic. So as the Rockford Masonic Temple burned to the ground, all I could do was watch and write.

Out on the roof, I watched the church burn

A plume of smoke, so faint against the night

That most us past Prospect would miss it

Were it not for the sound of wind

Sucked through shattered glass and arched doorways- 

A sound so primal that the fire engines fade into the background.

This sound is God’s siren. 

There were no worshippers inside tonight

Or any night for the last half decade. 

No sermons when the protestors marched 

No choirs postponed as the plague belly crawled across the state. 

Nonetheless, people of every creed can agree: 

It’s a sad loss - a century and a half struck down by a spark. 

Yet, the cathedral’s silhouette is not all

That’s missing tonight. 

The usual exhaust, tobacco, trash city smell is gone too.  

Perhaps the old women backed the funeral meals 

And youth group potlucks into the plaster.

Didn’t they say Polycarp smelled like bread?

My wife catches me climbing back into the room. 

Come to the window, I say, sweet is the night air.  

She reminds me that it’s a sin to gawk. 

I’m Ethan McBee and that’s my perspective.