Cathedral (I) – a poem by Jen Rouse

Cathedral I

Once I worshipped Paris
from the top of Sacré-Coeur,
spent my last genuflect-moment
at the tattered train
of Notre Dame, bathing
in biblical light. In the crypts
of St. Paul, I wept.
I am called to the word cathedral,
where the mother city lives—
come into her body,
the gentle rocking womb of her,
curl up on a pew, whisper
what you want. Call it sanctuary.
Do you need to be forgiven
or found? Will it be faith
or fortitude in the end? Is this really
only a wicked reward system?
Then why return? She responds
to your sadness with architecture.

In her hands, the scaffolding &
centering frames. She smiles and says
lift each stone now. This could
take centuries. And yet they were
cut to fit together perfectly. You
know this. The weight you can bear,
the entire roof on your shoulders.
It’s as simple as constructing an arch.
Watch as she tears down
what lies beneath you.


Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Pretty Owl, The Tishman Review, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Up the Staircase, the CDC Poetry Project, Parentheses, and Sliver of Stone. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at and on Twitter @jrouse.

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