Issue 116’s cover features the work of Native Northwest sculptor Preston Singletary. Also inside: Bill Franson’s photographs of the Mason-Dixon region. Jason Myers on the priestly vision of Barry Lopez. Nick Ripatrazone on how to spot a Catholic writer. Katrina Vandenberg’s memoir of mercurial teen friendship. Elizabeth Harper on the vengeful folk Madonnas of Italy. Federico Perelmuter on Jewish Latin American writers. Studio interview with textile artist and Islamic convert Alyssa Sakina Mumtaz and Adam Belt, who sculpts with sand, light, and fog. Anthony Domestico interviews National Book Award–winning novelist Andrew Krivak. Poetry by G.C. Waldrep, Daniel Tobin, and Fleda Brown. Fiction by Samuel Kọ́láwọlé and Margarite Landry.
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On the cover: Preston Singletary. Raven Steals the Moon, 2019. Blown and sand-carved glass. 21 x 7 x 7 inches. Photo: Russell Johnson.
We weren’t quite strangers in a strange land, but we were united by a faith that was somehow both strong and casual.
How many of you can say you have touched the shoes of God who walked the earth?
You know, don’t you, that nature
holds you close and finds no
fault with you?
in their games children invent laws
they keep usefully for joy or break
joyfully for use—
It is difficult being the daughter of a very beautiful mother. Even a mother who drank frequently, with enthusiasm, and beginning at two in the afternoon on bad days.
I learned to ski on the filthy Mississippi
What comes at the very end, he said, is the adorable.
Am I not the emblem of all that was or will be
Again and again, Singletary displaces the viewer by transforming traditional crafts and folkways into new, light-bearing idioms.
Holding something from outer space in your hand and praying with it heightens the awareness of God’s creation beyond your immediate surroundings.
In the harvest of parables, one of disillusion is told, in the castle laced with retreats.
Slime and refuse, slime and refuse, / A blood of Christ red ranunculus
I would say there is a constant play between recognizing the givenness of things and the unspoken imperative to make a thing entirely new.
Masked, one rebreathes one’s breath, becomes ingrown, a carbon dump. Is shame a side effect of desire, one wonders, or is it the other way around?
If I were
If I were past
of me—a river’s edge, a trace
defusing endlessly into the un
The Virgin Mary is a mother willing to sacrifice every part of her body for her children, but occasionally she won’t, and when she refuses, she sacrifices their bodies instead.
my only thoughts were how to talk about the banner marks
on hawks, and how my little niece would live the night, who
aspirant of earth had breathed meconium, the tar of poppy seed.
It’s not goldenrod that makes you sneeze.
It’s the ragweed that hides among the bright yellow.
Who doesn’t have a lost childhood friend, a perfect week that disappears into the dunes, a memory that, when you rub it, sparks fly out?
We are surprised
by their unusual lack of questions—not one
bone conjures up a once living cow.
And the one thing they always ask about,
their dead Uncle Daniel, our son, never crosses
Of course the light doesn’t admonish. / It is the jay that scolds. / The light does nothing / but coax.
I have been to West Virginia / and seen men and women pray / with a rattlesnake sliding through / the forest of their fingers.
The tangle of narratives around America as home are the subject of Bill Franson’s recent series of photographs. Franson’s Mason-Dixon: American Fictions casts a searching and loving eye on a region marked by the smoldering memory of racial violence and economic hardship—while also simply delighting in the visual surprises and paradoxes that litter the Mason-Dixon landscape.
If an encounter with my work helps a person’s mind become quiet—even if just for a few moments—that is enough.
The lotus boom the low frequencies / that recruit large pools of neurons in the listener to lock / the brain into another rhythm
I bet I end up loving being in the body / even more than I did before
He trims the wick of the whale-oil lamp / and lights it by hand, an act that has always been / literal for him, whereas the rest of us can’t stop turning it / into a metaphor
I am the vine, & you / are the architects of damage / in your costumes / of corduroy & silk. / You have abandoned me,
To be Jewish is to be alive to pain and heartache and to find shelter in a legacy of survival, to recognize that tragedy and life are inseparable.
every man longs
for a glimpse of his God
in the suburbs.
There’s nothing to be afraid of.
To see the world as Lopez saw it enlists both our stamina and our patience.
Now I’ve trapped them,
my heart goes out to them.
Wipe those fogged glasses, old man, as you peer
into the Void. Then tell us what you see over there.
Then I came to a juncture in my life
in which I was like a child taking a train
to the city for the first time