Dear Steve, I’ve had to look away for most of three decades now—away from your work. “Why.” That’s the title of a poem, a poem in your book Here and Now, I read this morning. “Because you can be sure a part of yourself is always missing,” the poem begins. When I read your poems now, like when I read them regularly decades ago, when, for a brief time, I was your student, your friend, I discover a part of… Read more

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “Sympathy”   I first read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when I was thirteen. I discovered the book through an interview with Fiona Apple, one of the many female singer-songwriters whose mournful lyrics poured through my boom box speakers while I slogged my way through the kickboxing routine that, according to Seventeen, would slim my hips. Thirteen was a difficult year; I was overweight,… Read more

The first time I threw something in a pathetic fit of anger, my husband and I were walking a gravel road in Saskatchewan. We’d been living in a cabin. No internet, phones, etc., and this was before we were parents. Most days would unravel into a fight about something or another.  It would feel irreconcilable. Then we’d get distracted or calm down and the issue would dissolve. That first time, we were walking briskly, pumping our arms to burn more… Read more

The Welcome Wagon’s Vito and Monique Aiuto released their first album, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon in 2008. The homespun effort was produced by Sufjan Stevens and was lauded by outlets as diverse as Pitchfork Magazine (the ultimate indie bible) and Christianity Today. Known for their endearing, lush, and earnest combination of indie-folk hymns, low-fi pop covers, and often revealing original songs, Welcome Wagon’s third album, Light Up the Stairs, was released in 2017 after funding from Kickstarter. I met… Read more

The Welcome Wagon’s Vito and Monique Auito are known for their endearing, lush, and earnest combination of indie-folk hymns, low-fi pop covers, and often revealing original songs. They sing of the glorious ruins of humanity and the cleansing blood of Jesus, treating both with beauty, grace, and inescapable authenticity. I met with Vito Aiuto—poet, musician and the pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church— at a Polish café in New York City’s Greenwich Village not long after the band’s third album, Light… Read more

After years of holding intimate hymn-singing gatherings in their living room, Reverend Vito and Monique Aiuto released Welcome to the Welcome Wagon in 2008; the homespun album was produced by Sufjan Stevens and put out by Stevens’s own Asthmatic Kitty records. The Aiutos, accompanied by Stevens and other friends, called themselves The Welcome Wagon—and their first album was lauded by outlets as diverse as Pitchfork Magazine (the ultimate indie bible) and Christianity Today. Their music was and is endearing, lush,… Read more

This summer, I climbed the rotting steps to the hayloft of my family’s barn to look for a plaque honoring the use of emergent DNA technology in solving the Brown’s Chicken Massacre case. The floor was soft, dipping a little as I walked, and I looked in slow motion through my great-aunt’s things: frosted glassware, ceramic roosters, romance novels, and Bible after Swedish Bible. The plaque hung in my great-aunt’s home after her daughter, Barbara, received it from the Chicago… Read more

I think it’s good for me when my stereotypes of others are challenged. Like this recent experience. I was taking a walk in my neighborhood and approached a parked Jeep from the rear. Covering the spare tire hung on the back was a huge American flag with the words “The Only One.” My instinctive response, given the horrors of the Trump administration, was to say to myself, “Thank God there’s only one of our country.” Then my eyes fell on… Read more

If you can keep your faith once you’ve stopped using prayer as an attempt to control the universe, I reckon your faith is real and can be trusted. I was on the plane to California the first time I recognized that my religiosity might be a form of superstition, and in that fashion, also a form of arrogance or an attempt to manipulate God.  Almost everyone is a little bit religious at takeoff. People subtly making the sign of the… Read more

Apparently, running late may be a symptom of optimism, creativity, and literally perceiving time differently. That was cold comfort in the doctor’s waiting room. I had arrived early to be ready right when they called me, but they didn’t call me. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. That’s when I started really stewing about the Problem With Doctors, which went something like: I didn’t come here just to chat, lady! I changed around my day for this. I’m here on… Read more

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