Fit for Immortality?

4290784933_312dfbb2ed_z-2“How’s your health?” my long-time friend asked me with concern.

“The leukemia is creeping toward trouble zone,” I answered, “and I’m not sleeping much, so sometimes I’m pretty wiped. I don’t deal well with physical discomfort.” Then I added, laughing but serious, “I feel ready for eternal life.” [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Onesimus”

onesimus2In this month of painful national and international news, Tania Runyan’s poem “Onesimus” offers a gut-deep breath of brotherhood. The poem recounts the story of Philemon, a new Christian Paul addresses on behalf of Onesimus, both Philemon’s fugitive slave and also a new convert. In “Onesimus,” Runyan singles out, perhaps, the most marginalized and voiceless in the ancient Greco-Roman world: the slave. Allowing him to directly address Philemon in a voice as ridged with humanity as a fingerprint, Onesimus focuses on images that establish the paradox the poem builds on. Gnashing lions who love “blood sweet with freedom’s fleeting breath,” flesh-splitting lashings, and even a branding are all, within the context of the narrative, lawful punishments for Onesimus’s failed escape. But the poem uses the raw imagery not to merely implicate Onesimus but to tether the reader to Onesimus’s plight much the way it tethers Onesimus to Philemon. In the last lines, the poem completes its shift from Onesimus’s plight and toward his humanity in his use of the powerful and symbolic “I am.” Onesimus cannot escape Philemon nor can Philemon escape Onesimus—either his suffering or his humanity. This revelation lodges itself into both the reader’s chest and into Philemon’s life to “pump forgiveness and prayer through your veins /…make you / see Christ in every jangling harlot….” It’s the image of both men being bound to one another that moves the poem toward a radical brotherhood that makes them both equally “a slave to God’s bidding.”   

-Jill Reid [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “I Am Poured Out Like Water”

6712511817_1621527225_zWhat attracts me to this poem is something deliberately absent yet evocatively present: baptism in a river. Starting from the very first line—during monastic prayer, the speaker’s mis-chanting “Lord’s forever” as “Lord’s river”—rivers are central to each vignette. There’s the creek where, as a kid, the speaker “took a girl down to the river to play—not pray”: that teasing echo of the song about river baptism. There’s the deer he then killed, stumbling “toward the Smith River”: its death “brought the Lord by the water.” There’s the speaker and his Dad fly-fishing, with the memory of his Dad as close to “a saint.” And finally, there’s the barge breaking up ice on the Hudson River outside the monastery as Matins is chanted. All these river images bring us close to the sanctifying water of baptism—close, but not quite there. Yet in a marvelously mysterious way, our baptism into Christ’s life and death is at the poem’s core.

-Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

Gotta Dance

2350196127_9f6e774f0b_zMy mother was a dancer. I use the term dancer in the most flexible possible way, to mean: “One who dances.”

She said that she had always wished to be a ballerina—an image that didn’t compute with my childhood understanding of my mother, a labor room nurse who played racquetball at the YMCA, and otherwise attended a smattering of sports events in which my siblings and I competed.

She wore tight jeans and therapeutic sandals, and most of the dancing I saw her do was with her friends in the neighborhood on Friday afternoons, when everyone finished work and school, and the children played while the women drank wine coolers and bumped hips to Neil Diamond hits.

For the children, women dancing and drinking in the living room with the massive stereo speakers turned way up, was something to be avoided. So we played hide-and-seek, Legos, Barbies, and otherwise averted our eyes to the mothers.

[Read more…]

Knee Walk

By Grace Talusan

Our Lady FatimaWe stumbled onto the bus in Lisbon, sleepy after the overnight flight from New York.

The pilgrimage tour guide handed out rosaries while the priest told the bus driver to play a recording of the rosary prayers on the sound system. I fingered the pink beads, following along with the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. By the time we got to the Sorrowful Mysteries, I had fallen asleep, lulled by the warm bus and the whispers of prayer.

Our first stop on the pilgrimage was the Church of St. Anthony of Padua to see the Bleeding Host. Waiting for our tour guide to organize us in front of the church, I got my first good look at my companions: elderly nuns in the habits of their order, women traveling alone who were not nuns, a priest, married couples, and an extended family.

Except for a six-year-old boy, I was the youngest person there by at least fifteen years. [Read more…]