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Poetry Friday: “Christmas Morning in a Hotel Room” by Carrie Fountain

Each Friday at Good Letters we feature a poem from the pages of Image, selected and introduced by one of our writers or readers.

FreewayIs there any place more melancholy to spend Christmas morning than a hotel room? A place designed to be no place at all? Yet it’s strangely fitting: the mystery of the Incarnation is that it’s precisely nowhere—on the margin of the world—that a God bursts in. In this poem, a narrator stands at a hotel window on Christmas morning, an figure in isolation, and wills herself to believe that “something important / began or ended precisely” in this no-place, some parking lot by some highway. And it’s her simple belief that even the empty places of the world are filled with meaning—“no doubt,” she thinks—that becomes the miracle of this scene, her belief transforming the commonplace world into one where hope rises in billows, where God arrives like a stranger in an idling car, waiting right outside.

—Tyler McCabe

Christmas Morning in a Hotel Room 

Out the window, the parking lot
and beyond that, the highway.

No doubt something important
began or ended precisely there, or

there, in that spot where the ice-white
rental car is idling neatly, clouds [Read more...]

The Greater Evil: Proscription or Compulsion?

Chinese MuslimsThere’s a new law in China, and it’s aimed at weakening a faith. As the Chinese government is not one to bother with currying world opinion, those who speak for the authorities are quite aboveboard regarding exactly what they’re about and why:
If a people are made to do something, they will soon enough not begrudge having to do it. Forbid a man and he will resent you; compel a man and he will grow accustomed to you.
It’s not uncommon for the jailed to fall in love with their jailers—Stockholm Syndrome, it’s called. But I venture that in most cases, it’s those who use the strongest tactics against their prisoners who win the most hearts. Lock them up and they stay strong; wear them down and win them over.
But back to the law: the new Chinese mandate requires all restaurants to serve alcohol, including those operated by Muslims. [Read more...]

Poetry Friday: “Annunciation” by Katharine Coles

Each Friday at Good Letters we feature a poem from the pages of Image, selected and introduced by one of our writers or readers.

Of all Gospel passages, I think the Annunciation is the scene most represented by poets over the centuries. So I’m always amazed when a new poet has the confidence and vision to re-imagine the scene for us afresh. And that’s exactly what Katharine Coles does in “Annunciation.” I’m taken first by her daring doubling in the opening line: “what occurs occurs…” The mirror imaging of the words expands into the mirroring of the angel and the virgin: neither of them, astonishingly, “matters.” The poem then moves into what does matter: images of light, scissors, openings catch my breath as I realize that the Incarnation is what is being figured here. Then, “we” enter the poem; and, disturbingly, we don’t behave in the self-forgetting way that the angel and virgin do. The poem is dotted with particular questions (“Of? Or to?”); yet really the whole poem hangs in the air as a question: where do “we” fit into the Incarnation? Can we even comprehend it as along as “we can’t forget ourselves”?

—Peggy Rosenthal



Annunciation by Katharine Coles

What matters is what occurs occurs
Between them, not to them. It’s only that
The angel doesn’t matter, nor the virgin.
A blade of light scissors the air [Read more...]

Why We Donate: Two 24-Year-Olds on Meaningful Support

Today, Image Director of Programs Tyler McCabe and Marketing Associate Aubrey Allison share their perspectives on the future of art, fostering a culture of empathy, and the role of religion in a thriving inner life.

Brothers and Sisters 1_rgd cropped small
Ruth Weisberg. Sisters and Brothers (detail): Wellspring.

Citizens of the Future

By Tyler McCabe

When I was seventeen I took a course in environmental biology at my local community college. The professor charged into the classroom on our first day, spilled her raincoat and bags around the lectern, and shouted in the language of fanfare: Welcome, citizens of the future!

By the end of this course, she said, we would begin to envision ourselves this way, as citizens riding waves of our own creation, agents of actions rippling forward. And she was not shy about implicating our wallets—even my adolescent wallet with my trickle of income.

We vote with our dollars, she said. It’s the truest vote we have. For example, when you buy a hamburger at McDonald’s, you are voting Yes, I approve of the whole environment surrounding this product: the farming practices, the treatment of the farmers and plant processing staff, the global franchise system, the foundation’s efforts, the pay and benefits of the employees, the waste disposal—all of it.

In the fullness of its action, your $1.39 buys you a big question.

What will be the environment of my future citizenship? [Read more...]

Poetry Friday: “Ex Nihilo, Then Us” by Robert McNamara

fireEach Friday at Good Letters we feature a poem from the pages of Image, selected and introduced by one of our writers or readers.

This poem is crafted as a conversation: among an unspecified “they,” an unspecified “we,” and God. The “we” is skeptical about the good actions traditionally attributed to God. (“From nothing God made everything, they said. / Nothing plus God is nothing we said.”) The “we” presumes humankind’s self-sufficiency: even though we are “honeyed self-interest,” “when something goes wrong, we fix it.” The poem is a profound metaphysical meditation on the nature of humankind in relation to God. I like how no easy answers are offered; rather, “we” and “they” play tug-of-war with their contrary notions of truth. And God has —if not the last word — the last action: creating “the tragic beauty of the world.

—Peggy Rosenthal 


“Ex Nihilo, Then Us” by Robert McNamara

From nothing God made everything, they said.
Nothing plus God is nothing we said. But with something to work with, look what we’ve done. [Read more...]