A photo collage that includes a portrait of Ruby Sales and Jonathan Daniels.

Illustration by Aaron Marin

Who is scorched worse,
the one who dives to take the bullet,
the one who shoots,
or the woman spared?

Take Ruby Sales, for example—
how she and Jonathan Daniels,
thirsty from heat and the Hayneville jail
stop for a cold soda on their way out of town.

Deputy Tom Coleman is angry, is ready;
he aims his gun pointblank at Ruby.
Daniels sees it coming, pushes Ruby over
throws his body in bullet’s path.

Editor's note: Sales, founder of the SpiritHouse Project, is a nationally recognized human rights activist and public theologian. Coleman was acquitted of the death of Jonathan Daniels by an all-white jury and died in 1997.

Elisabeth Ivey 5-25-2021
A graphic of a women with her eye wide open and shoots of purple light coming from behind her.

Illustration by Islenia Mil

We wander round searching for demons
and making them of each other
when we find none. Out of feigned necessity,
the slightest difference becomes a reason
to tame—to vanquish—to stamp out until
we look up and catch sight of ourselves:

Jeffrey Thomson 4-29-2021
Illustration of a man looking to his side, surrounded by abstract swirls and plants all in an orange hue.

Illustration by Mikita Rasolka

Lorenzo was mortar for the church
he built, gathering wild birds
for the rafters and fruited trees
for their food. He carted stone
and hoisted, he pestled, he block-
and-tackled. Persecuted
by Valerian and about to be
arrested, Lorenzo goat-herded
the church’s wealth, distributed it
to the poor. He paid the unmade
orphans, clothed the lepers
in money. He sold the sacred
vessels, the varied trestles.

An illustration of a gondolier going through a Venetian canal with dolphins jumping out.

Illustration by Alex Green / Folio Art

If we believe nature will mend,
it will replenish what has been taken and,
answering the wild call of urban space,

dolphins will return to Venetian canals,
elephants will drowsy dream in Chinese tea gardens,
humans will shed their fear and guilt to hope and taste

the terror of responsibility
the terroir of ourselves
the terra ignota of a paradise where

Devon Balwit 3-01-2021
Illustration of a woman with a cherry blossom covering her face as she floats down a stream in a canoe.

Illustration by Nicole Xu

Keep your eyes on your work. Looking
at a dogwood does not make you blossom.

Nor can a bridge of sighs span an ocean
of despair. For that, you need oars

and strong arms. Labor as long
as it is still called today. Yes, Faith

could have worn other metaphors,
but instead it rose from the dead

and asked questions: Why are you
crying? Who are you looking for?

Do not fear. Answer. The Risen One
speaks your language.

Benjamin Schmitt 1-27-2021
Broken glass that looks like a spider web.

Alamy

Crossing a river in Africa the spider
shooting her blacksmith’s thread
of melted-down swords and armor
the world’s molten madness bridging
dangling over the water

The creature moves frantically
and to an observer miraculously
like some stressed-out downtown commuter
levitating to work
surely this is a phantasmagorical
outpouring of mighty engineering
Golden Gate sprung from a thimble
that you would never believe
if it hadn’t bored you in second grade
like the kindness of Jesus Christ

Divya Mehrish 1-05-2021
Graphic of an abstract figure of a woman with a staircase leading up to her mind.

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I mispronounce my body as if
the architecture of the spine
were soft, as if this poem could
start here,
in the space between open lips,
even though it resists a title.
To be means to exist
with a name. To be means
to have a body worth defining.

Kemmer Anderson 12-01-2020
An illustration of a man with dark hair and a beard, covering his eyes as a tear falls. In front of him there is a chalice and flowing water.

Illustration by Terran Washington

I rub my hand across the stone font
Where Jon Meacham took on the water
Of baptism and signed on to the cross
In an olive oil signature made for words.

The empty sanctuary now quiet for prayer echoes
With last night’s lecture on the future of democracy.
Light pours through the stained glass window
With a narrative of Saul, struck down blind

Kenneth Steven 10-26-2020
Illustration by Jia Sung

Illustration by Jia Sung

I reckon it was the girl,
not more than fourteen. Those eyes.

Something made him stop his talk,
hoist down the lantern and mutter out with them.

And that was one sour night—
dust and wind, things banging;

Michael Stalcup 9-28-2020

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

We shudder at the inhumanity,
the crafted cruelness of that sickening show:
the stripped humiliation, blasphemy
of beaten flesh, death’s agonies stretched slow
by fellow men created in God’s image,
turned terrorists, enslaved to sin’s strange fruit.
How could they mock the marred and lifeless visage
of God’s own child? His axe is at the root!

Elisabeth Ivey 7-21-2020

Illustration by Jia Sung

Call this hair crazy.
but watch as it grows
outside of your gates
and beyond the walls
you’ve made to contain
me. See as it reaches
higher than anything you
ever thought of me,
shedding every lie of
inferiority.

Matthew J. Andrews 6-25-2020

“Tabletop Mountain” 2015 / Laura Wetter / laurawetter.com

The field, still and breathless,
colored in thirsty hues of yellow,
sits beneath hills just as bleak,
the whole land scoured in disinfectant

Jes Simmons 6-01-2020

Illustration by Tim Goffe

The later it gets, the more nothing.
—Woman at the register

Yeah, we’re open ’til midnight,
but few customers come after 9:00.
I like when it’s slow and quiet—
just me and the store lights.
I don’t like the sirens
racing along Main Street.
I always worry it’s my kid hurt
or my best girlfriend with another
black eye or busted rib.
When I’m here by myself, I draw
dress patterns for my daughter.

Bradley R. Strahan 4-21-2020

Illustration by Dante Terzigni

(“Oh I’ll leap up. Who pulls me down?”
“Doctor Faustus,” by Christopher Marlowe)

Now can I join this dance?
See, I am thinner than vacuum.
I can kneel toward the sun
at the very angle of prayer
and feel the counterpoint
pulse through my veins.

Illustration by Shin Yeon Moon

Some mornings I drive to the duck pond
instead of writing poems. I can’t remember
how to keep words coupled to the truth.
So much lying has torn words loose
from what they stood for. Remember,
back when we agreed on their meanings?
I’d say honey for instance, and you could
taste it. Once you said freedom
and I saw doves rising from your shoulders.

We shared language so we were not alone.
We both loved words as if we could see them:
like ducks bobbing on a pond, dipping,
scooping, swabbing insects from the air.

Holly Wells 2-24-2020

Illustration by Ric Carrasquillo

I can tell from the way
they are staring at shadows on the ground
that the voice-bearers have come
from that place where
trees are not life-giving.

Two nights ago, One was here with them
Whose longing, love, and pain woke my soul,
deep-buried,
which sleeps through winter,
moth-like.

He is not here with them now.

Kim Stafford 1-22-2020

Illustration by Mary Haasdyk

A veteran slumped in a midnight
doorway was trained to kill, so killed,
and killing banished sleep.

A hurt child, now thirty-two, who
never had the food he needed, haunted
by his father’s blows, shoots meth.

Devon Miller-Duggan 12-17-2019

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

1. I knew, but didn’t know—extent, sprawl,
continent-wide bird with great shadow-wings
hovering over a whole nation’s knife-opened birth—
talons and curved-hook raptor’s beak coming
for my heart, which is history,
which shields itself and hungers
as though truth were a flock of season-following geese
from whom I choose how many to bag,
how many a season requires. So many
moments sound like gun-shot—
sound cracking the ear with its own hammer,
pummeling some dark priest-hole in every mind,
fists on doors, slammed hatches on ships,
iron coming down so hard on a deck it loses its clang,
a skull punched against echoing wood, snapped branches,
snap of a jaw-trap around leg bone.
An eagle cannot feed its young its young.

Illustration by Livia Falcaru

I am the border agent who looks
the other way. I am the one
who leaves bottled water in caches
in the harsh borderlands I patrol.

I am the one who doesn’t shoot.
I let the people assemble,
with their flickering candles a shimmering
river in the dark. “Let them pray,”
I tell my comrades. “What harm
can come of that?” We holster
our guns and open a bottle to share.

Pamela S. Wynn 10-22-2019

Illustration by Livia Falcaru

Save for the sun, the nearest star
is more than twenty-five million
million miles away.

What has a single star
shining in Bethlehem
to do with us?