My Father’s Church

Willa Carroll

I spend my childhood in a church,

yet never go on Sunday, the place hopping

with Presbyterians, save when my father,

the custodian, gets paged for a choked

furnace. My brother & I follow him

down into the bowels of the building,

feeling heat far before the boiler room door.

On the flights up, we hear hysterical cries,

the minister’s screaming in Korean

after the window behind his desk blew in,

smashing over his head, trapping him

inside a jagged glass collar. As my father

frees him, the minister keeps bowing

in gratitude­­, ducking his head in quick

nods, thank you, thank you, nearly grazing

his jugular on the points as father cries,

Stop, please! You’ll cut your throat!

My brother & I clock long afternoons

roaming the body of the building, racing

down dim linoleum halls, climbing

the steeple to touch the bronze bell, hiding

& seeking in the forest of pews, believing

for those hours, in the sanctuary as ours.



Willa Carroll’s poems have appeared in Tin House, Narrative, 5 AM, Mary Magazine, Tuesday; An Art Project, and Stone Canoe. Winner of Narrative’s Third Annual Poetry Contest, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a semi-finalist for Discovery / Boston Review Contest, she was also awarded the Liam Rector Scholarship at Bennington. She lives in New York with her husband, a filmmaker with whom she collaborates on projects that bridge film and poetry.


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