The Inner Life of Everyday Objects

HelminenclothespinsOn a morning when I was doing laundry, I was also reading Edward Dougherty’s new collection of poems, Everyday Objects. I would read some poems till the dryer buzzed, then go and fold the dried clothes, then return to reading until the next load was dry.

Because I was moving between these poems and my laundry, as I pulled each item from the dryer I related to it in a way I hadn’t previously. This years-old green washcloth: it has done more than a lifetime’s duty washing my husband’s face.

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The House Where Beauty Lives

Rosenthal artwork 137“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Art collector Roberta Ahmanson quotes this famous challenge by the late nineteenth century British artist William in her interview with Greg Wolfe in the current issue of Image (issue 83). Morris’s imperative naturally moves me to make a mental inventory of the stuff in my house.

In my clothes closets, I instantly fail his test; too much there is no longer useful. The hand-woven blouse that I bought in Guatemala and don’t wear passes because of its beauty.

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The Birmingham Project

I was looking into the eyes of a black girl around thirteen years old. She looked back, her eyes pensive and a bit sullen. Then I shifted my gaze to the black woman seated as if next to her, about fifty years her senior. The woman’s eyes were those of a survivor, the eyes of someone who has lived through and somehow managed to transcend unimaginable pain.

What this woman from Birmingham, Alabama had survived was the racial violence that overtook her city in the early 1960s. The federal government had ordered Alabama’s public schools to de-segregate; Governor George Wallace was determined to resist.

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#BlackLivesMatter to Poets

15776028730_4963de50d0_zPoets are rising to the cause, hands raised (“Don’t shoot!”) but hands also holding pencils and paper or at the computer keys, writing poems.

The cause I refer to is clear to anyone who has lived in this country since August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s murder. It’s not a new cause, alas; racial injustice has never been absent from our land.

But what’s new—and hopeful—is the depth and breadth of public outcry. It had actually begun a couple weeks earlier, with the caught-on-camera police choking of Eric Garner, then swelled as Michael Brown’s dead body lay for four and a half hours in the street.

Then in late November-early December, the swell became a roar of indignation, as black Americans felt slap after slap after slap on the face of their worth as human beings: on November 22, the police killing (“when will they ever learn?”) of twelve-year old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park; on November 24, the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Brown; on December 3, the non-indictment of the police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death. [Read more...]

Thinking About Poverty

homeless-man-sleeping-with-his-bible1What better time than Advent to ponder what poverty means? After all, Christ became poor for our sakes, emptying himself of his divinity as he emptied himself into our humanity.

So what does poverty mean? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Poverty (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary):

1a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions; b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property; 2: scarcity, dearth 3a: debility due to malnutrition; b: lack of fertility (of the soil).

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