Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
September 2017 - Volume 17, No. 9
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The Man with a Church on his Back [A poetic whimsey-bit]

I met a man the other day with a church on his back. He carried it like a backpacker, the spire reaching beyond the height of his head; the nave foreshortened for visual effect embraced his shoulder bones. Stained glass and clerestory windows illuminating a doll house interior, cutaway somehow, yet as if a most natural appendage to the straight back of the tall thin man, with greying hair, and eyes more hollow than piercing, weighed from within, having forgotten how to welcome on their own.

Discreetly I made my way around him, so as to view this man-and-building, or building-and-man more wholly.  The details were an excellent representation, making any model-builder architect proud, the minor boasting the grandeur of the major masterpiece. Yet this was no mere model. Man and Church increasingly intertwined the more I observed - each becoming a prisoner of the other, each by the other diminished and even betrayed.

How does one say hello to such a man? Can he even see me, though his eyes are somewhat active? And what does one say? “That’s a mighty fine church you have there on your back sir”? “Did you make that yourself?” And then the more private questions - “Can you ever take it off?” If not, “How do you sleep with it?” “Can you sit on a toilet with it?” “Does it interfere with sex?”

Others seem quite able to ignore him - though they manage side glances betraying a cursory curiosity. How are they able to seemingly not see?

A faint wind blows where there is no wind. And on the back of a middle-age lady standing nearby a slight protrusion. Her dress is red, her hair nicely dressed. Her eyes - almost grey. I move to speak to her, but then excuse myself - not wanting to even say hello.

Then, with increasing uncertainty, I surreptitiously back myself to the wall, just to make sure.      

I met a man the other day with a church on his back. At first I wondered. Then it became so ordinary. Don’t we all carry something on our backs - for which, of course...

We pay a price.

Pay attention

Comments (3)

  • Poetry

    Hi Bill – Didn’t know you had it in you. Curious why his eyes are hollow – only the church allows him to welcome – maybe the church ate his soul. A little sad at first, then funny, then foreboding - makes me curious – want to know more.


    — Julie DuPei, 9/5/2017
  • Picking your poison

    If you had come upon it suddenly one day without having foreknowledge of it, would you have chosen the church? Or did it grow like a tree from a seed that fell inside your shirt and sprouted between your vertebrae. You were unaware and became comfortable with it and learned to sit sideways on the toilet. The missionary position seems appropriate for sex and you sleep on your side.

    — Donna Marie Hitz, 9/5/2017
  • Read


    — Cynthia, 10/4/2017

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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