Redeeming the Time
How strange: this time of COVID-19 in which we love our neighbors by keeping our distance. We show our care for “the widows and orphans” among us—the biblical paragons of vulnerability—by giving everyone room. It’s not an accident that art finds us in these moments, or that we find art.
Each week as part of our series “Redeeming the Time,” we will publish original essays, poems, and works from our editors and editorial advisors that speak to our current moment.
In the midst of a viral pandemic that has shuttered schools and universities, why go on writing essays about the syntactical anomalies of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, or learning when and how to use the French subjunctive tense, when humanity itself is threatened by a massive, though microscopic, enemy?
A Care Package for Unsettling Times
from the Image Archive
People also often enter sacred spaces at a slower, quieter pace, with a sense of anticipatory contemplation. This can be ideal for reflecting on art and ideas.
This is terror
and this must be how it happens—how need
alchemizes into belief.
Both hands of a clock rotate counterclockwise as I read backwards—you, give, leave, I, peace. You gave us peace. You left us peace. You left us for a little while until you returned, glorified in an era without aerial shots, prior to montage. A figurative clock I mentioned is anachronistic. You said, Peace I leave…
Really, though, I’m struggling. Is it absurd to adhere to a religion whose most central rituals my body won’t even let me perform? What am I to make of all the parables in the New Testament where Jesus heals the crippled and the lame? And, most importantly, if I believe we’ll all eventually be resurrected back into the world, then is this body—this bruised, broken, wreck of a form—the one I’m stuck with for all time?
I’d like to replace this perennially hamstrung, afflicted self with the more promising image, the person in communion with other persons.
I am none the less
boundless this morning,
trawling, under your sway,
winter’s counterfeit cages
wracked & rife & caroled
by the catalogue of all
I do and must learn to love
beyond my power to stay.
The monastic men and women of the fourth century went into the desert for the specific purpose of combating their demons. When I moved to South Dakota with my husband, I had no such design. I wanted a quiet place to write and to nurture our relationship. But by planting myself firmly in a marriage, in my grandparents’ house in a part of the world considered by most to be a desert, I had done something untoward, and more radical than I knew. In a place with few distractions, where it is possible to go to monasteries for excitement, I had taken on the burden of time.
“Courage, I think, inheres in the ability to realize that there is nothing singular in your own sufferings, that if they have value it is in the bedrock truth they enable you to fitfully glimpse and hopefully convey. This is as true for the truck driver or lawyer as it is for the poet.”
A. The heart is a divided city Between two alphabets. Church bells, minarets Betoken Time has stopped where it is broken. Nothing forgets. This is called history, not pity, It is not spoken. B. To remember is to cross Through no-man’s land Into an imaginary country You do not recognize But where the streets are…