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Issue 111

Image issue 111’s cover features work by Sobia Ahmad, who uses weaving, mixed-media, and installation art to explore the concept of home. Also inside: A new translation of Dante’s Paradiso by acclaimed translator and poet Mary Jo Bang; Nate Klug on the unbearable strangeness of being a pastor; James K.A. Smith on the stillness art asks of us; Anthony Domestico on the cosmic realism of Kathryn Davis; a conversation with poet and hospital chaplain Martha Serpas on healing, place, and Cajun history; Elise Lonich Ryan on performer Heather Christian, who creates sound worlds with theological consequences; Ben Lima on Hubbard and Birchler’s film installation Flora, which recovers the story of a young sculptor erased by art history; Julia Hembree Smith’s photo essay on repairing a relationship with a sister; fiction by Elizabeth Brown, Mamie Pound, and Debra Hughes; poems by Malachi Black, Lance Larsen, Allison Seay, and more.

Picturing Silence: Stillness in Sound of Metal

Stillness is hard. This is going to take practice.

The Abstractionist

Diego always called me mija, daughter, instead of Lisa. Once he called me by his ex-wife’s name, and ever since, he always called me mija. I thought he might have forgotten my name altogether, but he had his pride, and I took care not to embarrass him.

New Year’s Letter to Li Bai

Star-eater, you said / nothing when I asked; / you couldn’t hear me / with my mouth pressed

Eternal City, Soldiers Goosestep through Your Ivory Gates

How many forms can the wind take? / A paper bag, a dying voice, a limping stray.

Dooryard, Shaker Dwelling House

Here flints / / sleep next to tinder, matches near the stove.

Like Jesus in a Dead Man’s Float

He plunged into more and different living beings beneath the river’s surface, also uncaring. Almost-blind fishes swimming between reeds, above rusted cans and keys and teeth and bones.

House with Many Rooms

One recalls the depths of shadow, / The uncertain elsewhere of each room, / Dust like stellar remnants drawn together.

Self-Portrait with a Stranger’s Baby

Who would just leave a baby Jesus out / In their front lawn for anyone to take?


After Don dried his eyes again, he felt one last burst of laughter, then calm. His mother and Viv felt it, too. Their faces relaxed. Finally, trouble left them and there was more to see.

The Bay

Five thousand miles of wind and unbounded / / main arrested and framed as a square— / something the size of something / / knowable, even known.

Thou (the well)

I have carried down the city of you / the continent the fields of corn the fields of you

Thou (a feather)

I have carried down the city of you / the continent the fields of corn the fields of you

In the Studio

I’m crowdsourcing these skills from local weavers and the older women in my family—my grandmothers and aunts—who are now scattered all over the world. They’re sharing stories of various such beds they’d woven or inherited and sending videos and patterns over WhatsApp.


Lie beside me in this fallowland / / crossed through with tramps’ tracks wandering / lost at even these short spans

Working in the Dark

The heaviness of the questions I was trying to answer demanded a slower pace than photography alone could give me. I began sewing plant material from the farm into prints, and when I put the results in my scanner bed, I discovered that they became illuminated in unique ways, transformed into cosmic-looking abstractions.

Sonic Theology: Heather Christian’s Musical and Theatrical Liturgies

The musical metaphors and techniques here surpass a simple recitation of the creed, in part because the music is doing something deeply trinitarian, and you don’t need music theory to feel this in your body.

Blessings Brighten as They Take Their Flight

I’ll tell you what / a proverb does. A proverb waits / for the knowing / / animal. A proverb talks / when no / one listens.

The Means of Healing: A Conversation with Martha Serpas

Becoming involved in a poem, allowing the lines to unfold, not knowing if there’s going to be a surprise, a turn, or deepening—this is very similar to being with a patient or family as a chaplain when I don’t have all the answers. Part of my job is to sit with them in uncertainty. It’s a big white space.

I Have Lost Faith

I like to be a little cold what / / I mean is I need to feel just / uncomfortable enough to know I’m still / alive

My Desert Saints

It is said that a certain woman went to visit her sister. Before she knocked, she peeked through the curtain and witnessed something she had never seen.

Self-Portrait as Sarai

Three hours, midday: state minimum. / Three hours, midday: the god and her child deep in the forest.

After Reading Song of Songs I Take Out the Garbage

The syllables of my beloved are sweeter / than the cherry yogurt that once brimmed / these cups, her clavicle sturdier than corncobs, / her skin fairer than papery onion skins.

Portraiture and Personhood: Hubbard and Birchler’s Flora

The soundtrack alternates between David speaking about his mother’s life and his memories of her, and a voiceover narration in which Flora recalls her life in Paris. However, a viewer can only watch one side of the screen at a time—either Flora’s or David’s.

Curator’s Corner

I have often said that contemporaneity—much like modernity and creativity—does not belong to one race, place, or economy.

Mummy Wheat

When it comes to commemoration, / the great advantage of sculpture/ is how it tends to outlast / not only what happened / but everything surrounding it, / suggesting a context / is that which rots away.

Silence Pares My Lips

I mourn again my wrong belief / that evil can ignite the arrival of good


In ballet class they were always chiding us to not allow the difficulty of the act to be expressed in the hands… We girls were being taught the art of concealing art, ars est celare artem, the method wherein obfuscation becomes a weft to gird the warp of technique.


I set you children a lesson, Mary says. Our unknown is I am.


Let me be clear: I desire you / as a body desires a body. As a fern / / bends toward the window, night & day.


It’s taken me / almost a decade to admit it: I miss. I’ve missed / feeding all my thoughts through that revolving blade / so thin it could only be felt.

The Wolf Hour: The Cosmic Realism of Kathryn Davis

Duplex isn’t a disenchanted world, where saints have been replaced by stonemasons. It’s not even a world where belief in the soul has been replaced by the fact of robots. It’s a hinged world, a duplex world, where the human and the cosmic, the soul and the stars, stand side by side.

The Soul

Smoothed for gripping is not for resisting what would / you resist: wood of which you are made you must be / inside of:

Melatonin, Nature of Grace

So you would rather be sleepy tomorrow, / says husband. Do not believe / it works that way

Paradiso, Canto I

Because nearing what one wants, / Our intellect is so overcome / That our memory is left behind.

After Reading Song of Songs I Take Out the Garbage

I’m carrying into the cold / a bulging trash bag, big enough to hold / and hold and stretch and hold, like love itself, /
and outfitted with handy drawstrings.

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