The stone façade is black like the contrite hearts beating inside, warming the wooden pews with their sinful asses. Dull eyes stare alter-ward. Penitent minds don’t concern themselves that leftover ashes, sacred oils and the cold baptismal waters from the heads of babes drain down the sacrarium, into damnation where they all will someday end up. Like our forefathers and foremothers who sowed the guttural seeds of this language into our flat, Midwestern soils they feed on words the way pigeons on the other side of the stained-glass windows nibble on cracked corn. They trudge forward with mouths closed to the Host. Linden trees fill nostrils with the scent of semen. The voluptuous red and white bulbs on the horse-chestnut trees make them giddy with shame.
Like them, I entered your arches, felt along your rib vaults, kissed your flying buttresses. I elaborated your tracery. I horrored at your romance, kissed your effrontery, shuddered at your precision. For you, I was Matilda the virgin and Hippolita the old, foolish woman; I was Theodore the hero and Father Jerome the abandoner. I was your abbey and monastery, your frisson and monster. I was the church on the edge of the small German town you could never pronounce.