Friday, September 27, 2013

Our brief permanences

I inherited three things from my grandfather — a gun, a bust of Robert E. Lee, and a globe. The latter, faded and dusty, a large swath of the Pacific Ocean missing where the cardboard peeled away after years of sitting in a basement, shows a world that lasted less than a year. There's no date but the Mali Federation, a union of Senegal and Mali, existed for only three months in 1960. But here it is indelible like the Aden Protectorate, Dahomey, Australian Papa New Guinea, Spanish Sahara, the United Arab Republic. How like our literatures, these records of brief unions, of governments that split apart, of a world once cohesive but now a memory. But there is something to it, dear reader, to say we were here, this was and it left a mark.

Monday, September 16, 2013

a postcard

Tonight I walked down the frontage road to Shady Beach and sat and read a friend's poems. I looked up after reading and noticed what I hadn't before — the trees on the nes were starting to turn, tips all burnish and russet. The sun was under the trees but it was still light and a frail moon was ghosting at the horizon's edge. It was so beautiful that I thought of running home to fetch my camera so I could send a picture to you, my dearest reader. But we can't live like that, you and I, recreating presents, packaging memory. So I sat and watched the sky for a while and wished you were here.

Your last haircut

After years spent in the pursuit of self-improvement, let us be recalled to reality. It's not the loves and literatures we cultivate that define us, not those at all.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lenten Psalm Translation Contest - A Followup

The two years of the Lenten Psalm Translation Contest, held here on this blog, have garnered submissions of great beauty and variety. Winners and runners-up have taken their pieces on to Image Journal, The Missouri Review, A-Minor Magazine, and other publications. This year's winner, Jen Hinst-White, submitted her winning psalm sandwiched in an essay about miscarriage. Reading her submission, I experienced awe - in the original sense of the word. I was humbled to be complicit in the creation of something so weighty and beautiful; and I was moved to a great silence of understanding, remembering the days surrounding the loss of my own daughter.

Jen's full essay appeared recently, in two parts, on the Image Journal blog, Good Letters. You can read Hinst-White's full essay at Good Letters - part onepart two. And her psalm appears below.

To the Pilot Bridegroom

      after Psalm 25

At your hangar door I toss me: a paper plane.
Bring me in from the rain—take me ragged, and keep me
            all clear of the suck of the great turbines
Collect me and read me, wee stormied scrap,
            and scrap those still scrapping us windward,
            O God—
Don’t forget. Fold aright, and write New on my wing—
make limp paper sing—here, then, the wait—
but love’s side-lying
Eight guides all your flights. Right? Remind me. Remind me.
Find me kindly. Not back in my writhing, wriggling loose of my binding—
            forgive me, still wild—
God of the Polestar. Pilot Bridegroom. Pied Guider.
He gathers scorched ribbons for the tails of his kites.
If he finds paper squares, he folds cranes for his skies,
and so newsprint shares airspace with stars.

Lines Written between Dublin and Keflavik

These words are not meant to be read in their entirety. Skim them the way this plane skims the cloud layer, jostling sometim...