As soon as you enter, nothing is the same—
A fact, perhaps, you knew before you came
Inside. The shape alone, from down the street,
Signals some fundamental and complete
Transformation from what has come before,
In motion by the time you touch the door.
The door—here, too, something seems amiss
If known conventions be applied to this.
Unlike the tidy portals near and next,
Of chrome and glass, exquisitely Windexed,
The knotted oak leaves outside witness blind,
But those who enter know what they will find.
Come in—behold the old world pass away
Beyond those oaken sentries. Though it may
Have once diverted you with hustle and shine,
You scarcely notice leaving it behind,
As certain (perhaps all) things now seem new.
Turn, then, to what lies ahead of you.
The air is different here, by which you mean
Not only the aroma: in between
The ceiling’s vault and your unexalted feet
There floats a certain sense of your receipt
By sitting here, of some ancient craftsmen’s goal
That builders’ every stroke should prove their soul.
And what a proof! The cornerstones support
A gilded, grained, and marbled saintly court
Whose heights, impervious to man’s impeach,
Stand high (on common stone) above your reach.
Such beauty seems beyond mere mortals’ sphere,
But such, indeed, were those who put it here.
The rituals begin, and you’re aware
That others might see merely folly there.
But others stand outside the oaken doors
And have what sight their chosen place affords.
The chorus swells, a hundred voices. Then,
The structure proves the builder yet again.
Christopher Paolelli studied creative writing, biology, and English education at Northwestern University, finally graduating with a master’s degree in secondary education in 2008. He is now in his third year at Saint Viator High School in the Chicago suburbs, where he teaches AP and sophomore English, advises the Viator Voice newspaper, and quotes G.K. Chesterton to anyone who will listen.