“Mega-” by Shelly Stewart Cato

Shelly Stewart Cato


I got a big church. My church has got a big rock right in the middle of a big circle drive, and the rock’s got a waterfall in it, and at night, the waterfall has big blue lights and big green lights that shoot all the way to the moon. My church has a TeeNZoNe and t-shirts that say, NOT TODAY, SATAN! We got deodorant in the bathrooms and neon vests for the traffic people and those orange sticks like airport people use to scoot everybody along. My church has got a bowling alley. My church’s parking lot is bigger than the mall. 

On the inside, we got a Starbucks and a basketball court. When Brother Wayne mashes the red button to lock the big doors, Chase and I know how to hide under the bleachers. My church has got big swings inside that shoot like hot-tub jets and squirt out preachers on ’em. And they all lock hands and arms and hang from their underknees like red-and-blue Monkeys in a Barrel from Toy Story because of the red-and-blue lights they shine on ’em. And sometimes, the preachers just pick up a little kid or two and dip ’em in the water and save ’em. 

My church is safe. My church is dark. My church has got a life-sized cardboard Elvis at the Starbucks that says, It’s hip to tip

My church has lots and lots of people and a huge, fat, square swimming pool. My church has Jumbotrons and metal detectors like at Roll Tide football in T-town, and all the kids get to go through the fast lane. 

My church has a band and a drummer inside an upside-down glass bowl, and he looks green (because of the light they shine on him)—like when you catch a lizard and put him in an upside-down jar and slide cardboard under him and keep him for just one night. Lizards can see in the dark. In the dark, people can’t see you cry. My church is safe.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Shelly Stewart Cato: “I fell for poetry when I first heard Langston Hughes’s lines: ‘I’ve known rivers; I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.’ I am writing poetry. I am growing my soul deep, and I want my writing to grow the souls of others. I was actually a member of a megachurch for a while. I attended irregularly, but when I did attend (after I got my coffee), I reveled in the dark anonymity. I felt safe and unsure at the same time.” (web)

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