The cover of 106 features the assemblage and pyrography of Mojdeh Rezaeipour. Inside: guest editorial on fear and forgiveness by Emily Bernard; photo essay by Joyce Yu-Jean Lee on New York under quarantine; Devon Abts on national border walls as idols, and the work of Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar. Plus essays by Kat Moore on rehab, Melissa Knox on Catholic-atheist marriage, and Fady Joudah on J.L. Borges and Islam’s forgotten ecumenism. Garth Greenwell and James K.A. Smith talk Augustine; an excerpt from Christian Kiefer’s new novel on Rilke; A.E. Stallings on monuments and ruins; and James Chapin on prison literature. Plus poems by John Deane, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley, Robert Cording, Margaret Gibson, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Maria Rouphail, and more.
It may have been the first time someone had used the word pornographer to describe me, but it was not the first time I felt the punch of its meaning in reaction to my writing.
Even now, as you sit with the baby asleep in your arms, there are humble farmers amidst those lakes and rivers, their bodies bent close to the soil, and God is with them, the proof of his beating heart present in the summer’s pond lilies and the winter’s great gusts of clean white snow.
The first moment
is this moment,
this one right now.
What times these are.
No one knows what’s happening.
The air is filled with words.
Jessica Treadway spins a tale of rivalry, scandal, and sacrifice in a small-town church community.
The night of my most pain
a new girl came and was put
in the opposite bed.
That was terrorism,
she says. I know evil.
. . . I love her and how do we
How to do it, how hold
what misses the mark
and what hits it
As a child, I would write letters to god, then fold and throw them behind the wardrobe in my room, as if it were some sort of divine void.
When your father is barely literate enough to read from the Bible aloud, but you so love that there is even this one moment he will share with you
The voice of your brother’s blood
is crying to me from the ground.
Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley on an east Pennsylvania rite of passage.
Long before authorities are prepared to tear down walls, artists help us see through them.
Such is the mule, muscled with self-knowledge,
wiser than Aristotle.
I remember you in your final atonement, how calm you were.
Though you couldn’t tell me, you understood the names hidden in the dusk.
One of the extraordinary accomplishments of the Confessions is to find a syntax that doesn’t deny impasse or dilemma, but that also doesn’t allow impasse or dilemma to become stagnant.
Prayer is silence, / spirit-bones and soul-blood fluctuant as breath.
I was fine with the ceramic statues of Mary, flaming heart jumping out of her chest. I liked the bright blue robe, gold stars, and shell-like halo of the Virgin of Guadalupe. But the big wooden crucifixes, that crown of thorns digging into Jesus’s brown locks, skinny white arms yanked above so that he’s pitched forward—they spook me the way Dracula spooks me.
This is how the movie ends in movies—
The fade, the retreat, image dissolving
into the bath that bore it.
In Ibn Arabi, a totality of faiths were convened. His heart contained within it pastures for deer, monasteries for monks, a temple for idols, a Kaaba around which to parade, tablets for a Torah, and a Quran, as he said in one of his famous verses: “I follow the religion of love wherever its caravans go.”
Photographing helped me see the small light in this epic darkness, to find a conscientious perspective.
Cal Freeman on the mythological cockatrice, which kills with a glance.
This isn’t about objects, really. It’s about narratives of humanity, where objects are merely tropes for human experiences.
The monument is essentially didactic: look on my works, ye mighty. But the ruin, the legless trunk, is often the real lesson, on the passing of time and the erosion of reputation.
Hadara Bar-Nadav on praying at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
Laura Budofsky Wisniewski hears from her Bubbe’s ghost.
James Chapin on prison literature’s long moment—a review of books by Albert Woodfox, Tayari Jones, Zachary Lazar, Rachel Kushner, and Jackie Wang.
Katharine Blake on birth.
You are two atomized
in one, our molecules
become wild air that whims
The counselor says that I am in the romance phase. She is right. I am in love with heroin and with the needle, the whole ritual, in love even with the bruises on my arms.
In my mind,
my son cannot be nowhere, and yet I cannot imagine
where he is, except here, growing older inside me.”
You carry our son in a locket
you hang around your neck
each morning, a way, I guess,
of carrying what isn’t and what is
And my flesh, my body, held
the kingdom of God, and if it’s a place that’s a place
for children, then most of what I know really doesn’t matter.