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Issue 106

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.

From the Stranger in Me to the Stranger in You


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.

The Whole of Russia


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.

A History of Everything According to God


The first moment
is this moment,
this one right now.

Quiet Times


What times these are.
No one knows what’s happening.
The air is filled with words.

Good Faith


Jessica Treadway spins a tale of rivalry, scandal, and sacrifice in a small-town church community.

The Girl God


The night of my most pain
a new girl came and was put
in the opposite bed.

The Devil’s in the Details


That was terrorism,
she says. I know evil.

. . . I love her and how do we

explain her?

Judge Not


How to do it, how hold
in balance

what misses the mark
and what hits it

In the Studio


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.

The Face of a Man


Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley on an east Pennsylvania rite of passage.

Seeing through Idols: Art and Imagination at the Border


Long before authorities are prepared to tear down walls, artists help us see through them. 

The Mule


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. 

A Devotional Temperament: A Conversation with Garth Greenwell


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.

The Film The History of Our Inner Lives


This is how the movie ends in movies­—
The fade, the retreat, image dissolving
into the bath that bore it.

A Spider, an Arab, and a Muslim Walk into a Cave


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.”

An Indelible Season: NYC, 2020


Photographing helped me see the small light in this epic darkness, to find a conscientious perspective.

Half-Wishes of the Cockatrice


Cal Freeman on the mythological cockatrice, which kills with a glance.

Curator’s Corner: National Museum of African American History and Culture


This isn’t about objects, really. It’s about narratives of humanity, where objects are merely tropes for human experiences.

Summer of the Statue Storm


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.

Prayer Wall


Hadara Bar-Nadav on praying at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

My Bubbe’s Ghost Drops By


Laura Budofsky Wisniewski hears from her Bubbe’s ghost.

Doing Life: Prison Literature’s Long Moment


James Chapin on prison literature’s long moment—a review of books by Albert Woodfox, Tayari Jones, Zachary Lazar, Rachel Kushner, and Jackie Wang.

The Force


Katharine Blake on birth.

Our Daughter Compared to the Air We Breathe


You are two atomized
in one, our molecules
become wild air that whims
the world…

When I Go to Rehab, She Visits


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.

Quasset and Sprucedale


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

Bartholomew: Disciple


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.

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