“I Say Cathedral When I Mean Gunpowder” by William Evans

William Evans


Over winter break, Frank put a shotgun
in his mouth and killed himself in his mother’s
home, which was not his home, but I can under-
stand not wanting to die in a place you’re not sure

will care for your bones after you’ve left them.
Maybe break is a generous word because I was
back in the home my father had left and I was 
never going back to school, but ghosts have 

a way of knowing where all keys are hidden,
what kind of pacification the most guarded
beasts will submit to. It is 2 a.m. and a person 
I have left behind is telling me someone I had

lived with is trapped behind the present tense
forever. Now it is four days later and I am
in my best clothes driving into Fairfield County
where I was once called nigger on the baseball

field, where I once needed a coach to walk
with me to the bus to avoid my own purging
and a teammate told me that it wasn’t because
I was Black, but because I was that good,

because I was not old enough to be two
things at one time yet. Frank loved Wu-Tang
and once argued me who had the best verse
on Triumph, but no one at this funeral knows

this story, at least not the part where Frank
once kissed my forehead at a party while
we re-enacted Ghost and Rae over the music
too loud for anyone to be truly sober that night.

There is a humming here, whenever another
mourner approaches me, with a trespass glare
and I hope that Frank knows that I came here,
again to a tree that looks at my neck and misremembers

gravity, to see him lowered into the world that
tries to claim me, each and every day. I don’t want
him to see me as brave, but to know that I, too,
understand what it means to walk into a cathedral

and hear every lock turn behind you, that the stained 
glass is sometimes just light born in a better neighborhood
and I can still smell the gunpowder you swallowed every time 
I startle a flock of birds, that will never again be still.

from Rattle #57, Fall 2017
Tribute to Rust Belt Poets


William Evans: “I think being from the Midwest is a unique negotiation for a writer as I often find myself putting forth an idea that isn’t so much profound as it is making a statement of awareness for readers. I often feel that the aesthetic of many poets outside of the Rust Belt is an affirming action that confirms or reinforces what we may believe about the location already. In my part of the country, I think the writers are often defending their home. It’s a pursuit of not only relevance but of reverence of where our voice fits in the national conversation. This poem, ‘I Say Cathedral When I Mean Gunpowder,’ feels particularly Midwest when it encounters the shifting environments, hard-to-penetrate culture, and realities of what being in the middle of the country demands.” (website)

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