Joining in Life and in Death

GL Post - Martyn Jones

By Martyn Wendell Jones

When I moved into this apartment with my wife after gaining Canadian immigration clearance, I noticed, standing on our balcony, two apartments in the public housing building across from us.

The first apartment, near the center of the building and four stories below us, was always visible at a sharp angle from above, and inside it I always saw someone I came to refer to as the Sad Man. He’s there now—I just checked—lying in black clothes on top of the sheets on his bed, presumably looking at a television mounted across from him and obscured by the outer wall.

The Sad Man is very old, and every time I look into his apartment he’s lying there, or just getting up, or just lying back down. I’ve never seen anyone in his apartment with him.

Two floors above the Sad Man’s apartment and one unit to the right is his spiritual twin, the Sad Woman, into whose apartment I have a deeper sightline on account of the shallower angle. [Read more...]

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Egyptian StatuesSince I’ve been blogging here at Good Letters I have been contacted by several friends who knew me back when I was a Baptist. My friend Heidi asked, “Are you a universalist now?” Cliff wondered if I was, “denying or seriously doubting Jesus’ claim to be God.” Another asked if I was “still a believer,” and yet another frankly labeled me agnostic.

These friends are seeing my musings after many years away—thanks to social media. Their own journeys seem to be keeping closer to their original faith, and mine not so much. There’s no doubt that it’s been a long road from my strict fundamentalist childhood to where I am now. [Read more...]

Here at Last is Love: The Poems of Dunstan Thompson

Dunston_ThomasI get tingly with anticipation when I’m about to meet a new poet. I don’t mean the poet in person; I mean meeting the poems of someone whose work had been unknown to me.

And so it was when I opened the new selection of poems by Dunstan Thompson, Here at Last is Love, just published by Slant. But this wasn’t to be my usual sort of first meeting, because first in the book comes Greg Wolfe’s rich biographical introduction. With gratitude, I was truly “introduced” to Thompson: to a man whose life was shaped by opposing desires—for the Catholic faith of his childhood in the 1920s-1930s and for homosexual love.

Around age twenty, Thompson left the Catholic Church and began a series of tormented love affairs with various men. To be gay in the 1940s was to be doubly cursed: by society and by the Church. Thompson felt himself doubly sinful. At the same time, experiencing World War II in London, he was horrified by war’s brutality. [Read more...]

Let Me Die Like This

redWhen I die, Lord, let me go in a plane crash, spiraling down, earthward, earthward, apportioned enough time to pray but not nearly enough to forget what we’re all prone to forget: that the end comes, it rushes up to greet us, every one in flight.

What I’d pray in my downfall is: forgive, sweet Christ, forgive, and this: let me see. Let me see myself in your mirror so I may know, before the end, if I am known.

They say it’s easier to conjure faith in desperation, but I suspect the opposite is true, that all we hold in our trembling hands, when the earth charges up to embrace us for the last time, is what’s really there, what we really believe, what we really love, be it God or ourselves or our children or our comforts, or likely some combination of these, with salvation turning perhaps not on a choice so much as on the algorithm, on our hammered-out parameters of love. [Read more...]

The Day I Became Elijah

Ma_Yuan_Walking_on_Path_in_SpringBy Martyn Wendell Jones

In his essay “The Wounded Word,” French philosopher-poet Jean-Louis Chrétien describes prayer as situated in “an act of presence to the invisible.” People who pray are disclosed to God and, secondarily, themselves, illuminated with a “light from elsewhere.” I was six when I first experienced this in its full measure.

“It troubles me,” our teacher said, “that lots of you said “ooh” and “wow” when the football players were getting tackled in the first part of the video, but no-one said anything when the football player told us about what Jesus had done for him during the second part of the video.”

We squirmed in the benches. The grass outside was positively shining; a second teacher blocked the door to keep us from running out to play in it. Fans spun overhead, not dissipating the heat so much as mixing us into it.

Finally we were released. My peers ran and played.

I, on the other hand, received a call from the Lord. It didn’t come down from the sky with thunder. Instead, I remember a quietly emerging sense of destiny. When our keepers called for us to reconvene in the classroom, I wandered towards a path my father had shown me earlier. It led into the woods. [Read more...]