Our spring issue’s cover features Upside Down Party, Salman Toor’s ceiling mural from COMO (Contemporary/Modern) Museum of Art in Lahore, Pakistan. Inside, editorial advisor Dua Abbas Rizvi reflects on her family’s memories of India’s partition—and the art that has grown from that rupture. Also inside: a photo essay by S. Billie Mandle, who spent ten years photographing Catholic confessionals across America from the point of view of the penitent; Pádraig Ó Tuama interviews former Jamaican poet laureate Lorna Goodison; Yudel Huberman on Hasidic forestry; Ted Gioia on how free online art traps artists; Catherine Ricketts on a brother’s addiction and how we talk about the afterlife; in the Studio with Pakistani collage artist Saba Khan; curator’s corner: LA’s Bridge Projects’s new show considers tree-of-life images across faith traditions; Paul Lisicky on becoming a church musician—and leaving it behind; Robert Clark in pursuit of Sylvia Plath; a novel excerpt by Renee Simms on how labor shapes the body; new Russian fiction by Alisa Ganieva in translation; poetry by Jacqueline Osherow and Chanda Feldman.
She reads their names aloud,
men, beloved to some,
lynched in Little River County,
Arkansas, each appellation
engraved on a six-foot
Music is what I call an anti-commodity—a thing that isn’t exhausted when used or given away but gets larger and more valuable, like the fish and loaves in the gospel. In that way, a song is like love or friendship or trust, those other anti-commodities that increase with the giving.
I made you a promise I intended to keep:
I will cover my body; I will keep your words near
like the pearl at the curve of my ear.
It wasn’t long before I began
pinching myself for fat, for acne, learned
to hate my body in a swimsuit, in clothes.
I pace the cracked suburban paving.
Fiats gust, lizards flick, Jesus
Christ: that ankle-speck of a rat hound
bashing the railings, baying.
If I’m to be serious about my music, or any art, I shouldn’t put it toward anything as problematic as God, but toward ambition, achievement: the only reliable gods.
It wasn’t a death exactly, though I’ve been
undone by deaths the same way.
It was the season of the prayer for rain. To condense, to cloud, to empty out, to rain. And nothing is familiar but the rain.
It seems to me that in displaying the profound aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual beauty of a common bequest like trees, we are moved to value them more and to experience an awe that humbles and amazes—something that makes us more respectful participants in the natural world.
It is only the forgetting—of our debts, of our teachers and fellows, of our place in the larger story we are unwittingly writing—that is a sin, a crime against memory, against both past and posterity.
Once a week he holds me against him like a child and I inhale wood and horse and earth, sometimes sweat (not sharp with the agony of hurry but warm, like a tree trunk seeping sap on a sunny day); I keep my eyes closed, as if afraid time will shift like a rocking boat beneath my feet, and that…
What I enjoy instead are the faults of the hand, the jagged edges, the brashness of jugaar (an Urdu word meaning to innovate within a very small budget).
God the God of the cement silo, sunset-stained,
and the conveyor
running through the night.
I was born out of terror,
horn-caught and tangled,
pulled from the brush
with a cry of thorn and leaf.
Nanto never ran out of stories. She would tell us stories of prophets in the desert, how people tried to scheme against them, how they were always too clever for the tricks or were helped by God in some magnificent manner.
Laughter is one way in which I experience God, and so I want to write about the ways in which I am sometimes lucky to experience the divine, as friend. A friend who makes you laugh out loud, and who makes you weep. I’m a weeper, and that too is a gift from God.
I used to keep my beliefs about hell tucked latent in the hidden place. After Joe died, they began to eat at their cupboard, like moths in a sweater drawer.
is there a dove?
I certainly can’t
Leonardo is famous
for hiding things,
As a queer woman raised Catholic, I have had a complex relationship to the church—making these photographs was part confession, part reconciliation.
that you commit some part of your mind and heart to an unshakeable belief in the logic of global capital, which means that on a smaller scale you commit some part of your mind and heart to an unshakeable belief in the necessity of placing a two-inch needle into an instrument panel over and over and over again,
In the sanctuary, I repeated a childhood prayer
I knew some of the words to. I’d skip
a lecture and want to skip them all—
“‘Life has become better, comrades. Life has become happier!’”
this should be no wilderness
to be lost in
While we creatives apprentice ourselves to various crafts, aspiring to art that is “fine,” we might also look for subtle ways to decorate our daily lives with new intentionality. There is a training of the soul in the arts we live with.