Good Letters

Poetry Friday: “The Ruined Saint”


This isn’tJust a story. This isn’t justA reliquary for bones that no one found. Mystery hangs suspended in Jack Stewart’s poem “The Ruined Saint.” Like the “gemmed rosary” of blood that drips bead by bead “between his toes,” the poem trickles down the page slowly and occasionally submits to stillness, creating space for marvel at miracle and marvel, too, at…



“I’m going to shoot them,” my husband announces.  “I just got pooped on.” I felt bad for Michael, as he pulled off his shirt, freshly smeared with the stinky mess of vultures, but I wasn’t going to take his side on this. I stood with the vultures.  “You can’t kill them,” I said. “It’s probably…

In London, a Sculptural Offering to Gods Old and New


Through a Glass Darkly Alien-insect hybrid saints, haloed in Blakean light, set within a frieze of golds and incandescent blues; of antennae and hands. It sits, this stained-glass greenhouse–perhaps six feet tall and ten at its length; no bigger than the grave of a full-grown man–below 23 stories of Brutalist tower near Hyde Park in…

Poetry Friday: A Psalm to the Mansions of Heaven


Psalm of David by Shigeru Aoki, 1906 (Public Domain) Nicholas Samaras’s poetry has always struck me as being unbelievably rich, something that is carefully sculpted and also organic, unyielding and true. It is a psalmist’s voice, and in “A Psalm to the Mansions of Heaven,” we hear a sort of ascent, a calling out to…

Tamika Mallory and the Seeds of Redemption


Melekh matzmiach y’shuah; “sovereign who causes redemption to flourish.” As I have countless times, I prayed those words on Shabbat morning. They come in the opening passages of the Amidah, the standing Jewish Prayer of Prayers. This particular Shabbat followed shortly after a visit to UNC Asheville by Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women’s March.…

The Lonely Boy: A Catechism of Front Yard Saints


Living in brownstone South Brooklyn, we walk everywhere. There is always something to look at. This is an Italian Catholic neighborhood; a casual atmosphere of bathtub Marys and various saints lounge in the front yards. Some are well-attended, brightly white, watching over manicured lawns. Others crumble in silence, their owners old mainstays in a swiftly…

Poetry Friday: “Canticle of the Penitent Magdalene”


Who was Mary Magdalene? Tradition for centuries presented her to us as a penitent woman, kneeling woman, woman once possessed by demons, woman with a past. As prostitute-turned-saint, she is a figure of femaleness easily fetishized by the male gaze. And yet this tradition doesn’t have its roots in the earliest writings and traditions of…

Three Debut Story Collections Pierce the Fog of God


Samuel Martin’s powerful review-essay in the current issue of Image (#99), “Piercing the Fog of God,” pulls me into areas of my Christian faith where I’d rather not go. Drawing on the short stories in three debut collections by contemporary writers, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Chanelle Benz, and Melissa Kuipers, Martin explores what Christian sacrifice, damnation,…

The Heavy Levity of Chagall’s Suprised Lovers


A decade ago, my wife and I took the Amtrak from D.C. to New York to celebrate our first wedding anniversary with a visit to MoMA. It had been a hard year. The economy had crashed. The magazine we worked for had folded and with it the future we’d imagined for ourselves. Unable to make…

Poetry Friday: “I Stand and Knock”


What pulls me into this poem is the way we’re drawn into a cosmic drama which is, finally, salvific. The title, combined with the very first lines, brings to mind Matt. 7:7, “knock and the door will be opened to you” and Rev. 3:20, “behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Holding these lines…

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For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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