Impounded by Poetry

By Cathy Warner

Salmon LeapingAfter one glass of wine, one poetry reading, and two hours, my bill totaled $452.21, and I hadn’t even bought Paul Nelson’s book.

At least the tow truck driver was apologetic. “I waited as long as I could before I hooked up your car. I just got here ten minutes before you.”

I could tell he thought the sort of person who drove a fifteen-year-old minivan with a Coexist bumper sticker was the sort of person who’d only park in a posted We Tow Unauthorized Vehicles lot in an emergency. So he had dawdled, waiting for me to come running, shouting “wait!” offering a profuse apology and compelling excuse (a flight, a funeral, brain surgery), whereupon he could issue a warning and return to his dinner.

But there I was, a willful and flagrant violator, who’d parked her car at 7 p.m., and hadn’t returned until nine.

My excuse was flimsy: I was late; the restaurant lot and street parking were full; I didn’t know where else to park. [Read more…]

My Big Bang Theory

redwoodsGuest post by Cathy Warner

I awoke one morning from a recurrent nightmare of nuclear apocalypse to see towering redwoods dripping with fog outside the window. I stepped from the cabin into a chorus of frogs and crickets, interlaced roots spreading wide into bracken fern, neon banana slugs sliding across fragrant duff. I breathed crisp air and sensed that I was in the midst of an ecosystem in perfect harmony.

In that instant I was convinced this hadn’t happened randomly (as I understood evolution), or because the trees had “willed it” (as I understood the Beyond War manifesto I’d recently embraced).

It was the first time I felt God revealed—not a bearded cloud-bound giant calling for repentance, a la the Bible-thumping students on the campus quad I’d tried to avoid—but a presence, being—in and behind all that existed.

[Read more…]

Songs Dead Men Sing

Guest Post Scott Warner headshotby Cathy Warner

In the backseat of our minivan I swig an individual serving of white zinfandel to numb myself from the terror that is I-5: long sweeping curves, cement barricades, and massive trucks pulling two and three trailers that sway and rattle.

When I’m in the passenger seat, my husband can’t help but react to my cringing, so we agree a sleeping pill and $1.49 bottle of wine are reasonable for the five-hour trip from Eugene, Oregon where our daughter attends college, home to Puget Sound.

Ten years ago, living in San Francisco’s Bay area, I tried therapy. “You’re afraid of death,” the counselor said as if I thought being plowed into by tons of steel would result in a chipped tooth. I wanted driving—and life—to be predictable and safe.

Tonight, when I awake after two drugged hours, my husband’s brother serenades us from the grave. Scott died eleven years ago yesterday of liver failure at age forty-five, the slow suicide of an alcoholic. [Read more…]

A Christian Writer Drops the F-Bomb: 25 Years of Image

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays by people who have encountered our programs over the years.

Guest post by Cathy Warner

It was a reading at a memorial service that got me riled.

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room.” Don’t be sad, my pastor read, “All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.”

Watching the tearful widow, who’d now be living alone after forty years, I was unconvinced and angry the dead man’s missive denied the living their grief.

I penned an alternative letter, then another, and another, until I imagined half a dozen dead—an aged father, alcoholic wife, young solider, child molester, husband who succumbed to cancer—writing from the beyond to those they’d loved and those they’d wronged. [Read more…]

Avoiding the Mirror

Guest post by Cathy Warner

I have circled around this story several times, trying to write my way into it.

I begin with an inciting event:

An eighty-nine year-old man lies unconscious, unresponsive in intensive care in a California hospital. His name is Vince and he was hit by a car in the town he’s lived in near forty years, the same town that was my home for twenty-five.

I am now nine hundred miles north, but in my mind I see the pharmacy he left, the crosswalk, his wife waiting in their minivan parked outside the beauty parlor. I picture her stumbling from the car with her uneven gait, pedestrians rushing to her side, to his aide, sprinting to the fire department down the block for help.

I read the news on Facebook first, that “an elderly gentleman” had been hit, and stopped at this description of him. Though he’d been retired from his work as missionary to Pakistan the twenty-five years I’d known him, he was far from gentle.

From there my words add up to a litany of how hard this man—who died days later from his injuries—was to love, a long complaint about our relationship.

It doesn’t work. My editor tells me: “Basically you still believe he was deeply misguided about most everything and that you have the correct ideas, so the piece just becomes a ‘He was wrong and overbearing and fearful but we’re still all one in Christ.’”

[Read more…]


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