top of page

John Gallaher

Building the Cathedral

The anonymous builders of English medieval cathedrals,

26 cathedrals in 500 years, would rarely see the end of the construction.

It was unhappy work, and the Church helped recruit laborers 

by granting indulgences. Indulge me, Lord.

Grant me pardon as I lift this rock. I was clumsy and raw,

placing my hands to the cold stone.


Portland in March, and I’m driving with my brand new

just found half-brother Dan to meet our second cousin


       “Bonus family,” the new language 

calls us. “This is the road your dad died on,” he says.


I’ve found my birth mother, and this is the transformation,

brick by brick. I say it aspirationally, that every stone

is the corner stone. The cathedral

of the body, the history of the body. Ken

says hi. We’re all five foot seven. The three of us

in an arc. We have lunch.


The next day, I flip through the Troutdale historical records looking for my biological

great-grandfather, the one-time mayor. I run

in the golf course behind the hotel. My rental car is $39.99 per day.


Hewn, as in, “hew to the line,” “stick to a course,” literally,

seemingly contradicts the sense of the verb, hew,

to “cut evenly with a weapon or tool.” The stone

is hewn. I’m listening to an album by Big Thief.

I’m thinking about running another loop. Then I fly home.

Cleave, as in, “to split or sever, especially along a natural line.” Then

cleave to, to stay close. Watch these graves

dotting the hillside, buoys on a slow-motion rough sea.

JG Headshot 01 2023 - John Gallaher.jpg


John Gallaher's forthcoming collection is My Life in Brutalist Architecture (Four Way Books 2024). He lives in northwest Missouri and co-edits the Laurel Review.

Bear Review


bottom of page