Issue 25: Unraveling the Dark

Single Issues > 2012 > Issue 25: Unraveling the Dark



From You
Poetry Prize


Nicole Rollender: Necessary Work, Prelude
Temple Cone: What I Meant by Joy
James Crews: For Those Weary of Prayer, Calling
Matthew Roth: My Father Goes Out with a Chain in His Hand
Mitchell Untch: Autumn
Shann Ray: Invocation
Kelly Michels: Static In The Dark
Harry Bauld: When You Grow Up Catholic
Becca J.R. Lachman: Wait
Laurie Lamon: I stopped writing the poem
Gary J. Whitehead: Warren
Carolyn Moore: What Euclid’s Third Axiom Neglects to Mention about Circles
Wesley Rothman: Long After My Grandfather’s Death


Tony Woodlief: The Dead Boy
Robert McKean: Landscape Painting


Jane Hertenstein: Seeking the Elusive
Tarn Wilson: A Narrative Break: On Reading after Crisis


Rita Jones: The Dawn That Comes Walking: A Review of American Masculine: Stories by Shann Ray

Visual Art

Aubrey Allison: Introspective
Matthew Ballou: Lamentations 3 Verse 2, Lamentations 3 Verses 17 & 18
Ivan de Monbrison: Selected Works
Francis DiClemente: Sunday Afternoon, Street Dad: Side Angle

EXCERPTS from Issue 25: Unraveling the Dark


Editor’s Note : Unraveling the Dark

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”
—Madeleine L’Engle A Ring of Endless Light

In preparing for this issue, we came across Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2010 lecture “Smile or Die” in which she explores the more insidious side of our society’s obsession with remaining positive. Many of us have experienced the admonition she identifies to keep our dispositions “cheerful.” We might have even heard this in spiritualized terms—as though God offers more love, comfort, and direction to people who exist in a state of perma-cheer, even to the point that we might refuse to look with sober reflection at the real circumstances in our character, spirit, and relationships near and far.

But in this issue of Ruminate, through word and image, we invite you to consider shadows; to look squarely, without fear, with honesty and compassion at the things we might rather avoid. And so we present the work of Ivan de Monbrison. In an interview with Benjamin van Loon earlier this year, Monbrison stated:

. . . the artist is hunting whatever is hidden in him, waiting for it to come out. It is very strange. Sometimes you work for days and days, and nothing comes out. Then, for some reason, when you’re angry and depressed—inside of you, you can feel that this energy is coming to the surface, and then this energy comes alive on the paper or the canvas.” (Anobiom Lit, Jan. 4, 2012).

We hope that the inclusion of these images will function as visual psalms, poems of lament, confusion, and of deep am- bivalence in its truest sense. May you find in them meditations on how we are, each of us, a marriage of glory and grime, saints and sinners—one.

We are also pleased to share a powerful example of contemporary gothic literature in Tony Woodlief’s short story “The Dead Boy.” This genre of literature (from Bram Stoker and Emily Brontë to Flannery O’Connor and Toni Morrison) is known for its ability to address the eerie or uncanny moments we can’t quite name and the things we repress or deny. Woodlief works skillfully within the gothic genre, giving us ghost-like images of the toll that horrific guilt can take on those we love.

This issue also features the winning and finalist poems from the 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. We were honored to have renowned poet Li-Young Lee serve as our finalist judge for the Prize, and we congratulate Nicole Rollender for winning first place with her poem “Necessary Work.” Rollender’s poem gives us truthfully poignant and contrasting im- ages of life and death, like “the beautiful plum falling / from its long branch, then sweetly decomposing.” She carefully shows us the importance of contrast, how a light in the middle of the day can go unnoticed but shines vividly in the dark of night.

Like Rollender, other contributors in this issue also use truth to unravel the dark. In his poem “Calling” (where we happily discovered the title phrase for this issue), James Crews plays with the truth behind our words saying, “If I say I see a heron lifting off / hours before dawn, I mean I see / a long, blue piece of me unraveling / from the dark . . .” Speaking the truth about our shadows isn’t easy. It’s why we must confide in those we love, telling them If I say this, please know that I really mean this.

Much like the recognition of our saint/sinner state and the power of truth-telling, the arts have a way of piercing through the heavy shadows and the light perma-cheer that can plague us; they unravel the dark in order that we may better gather the light. And gather the light we will: like Laurie Lamon watching a video of ocean darkness erupt with an octopus giving birth, like Shann Ray witnessing his wife tucking their daughters into bed and the way she touched her lips to the inside of their wrists. Like Harry Bauld’s words “morning is still a cello / No one has even taken out of the case . . .” and Becca JR Lachman, who says, “I have seen things shine. Most days, this is enough . . .” It’s true. There are octopuses giving birth, and mothers kissing their children, and new mornings that have never been taken out of the case. And we have all seen things shine.

With hope,

Stefani Rossi & Brianna Van Dyke

Visual Art Editor             Editor-in-Chief

James Crews: CALLING

James Crews


If I say I see a heron lifting off
hours before dawn, I mean I see
a long, blue piece of me unraveling
from the dark, landing in the creek
to hunt a glint of fish, then taking it
writhing into the mouth silvered by
light some call the moon, but which
is merely a buffed steel cap barely
holding back the spill of summer sun.
The heron can already sense the water
warming up the way we know a word
spoken to a glass of liquid over time
will change its molecules: Call it holy
holy is what you will taste.

James Crews was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. His collection of poems, The Book of What Stays, won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and he is the recent recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. In his free time, James writes reviews and essays for basalt magazine and regularly contributes to the (London) Times Literary Supplement. He has worked as a wallpaper salesman, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and an English teacher in rural Oregon. He has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently at work on a PhD in Lincoln, Nebraska.


The Dawn that Comes a Walking

American Masculine: Stories by Shann Ray • Graywolf Press, 2011
Reviewed by Rita Jones

When I was four years old, my mother bundled up the youngest three of her five children and took us to the King Street Train Station in downtown Seattle. My parents were in the midst of an absolutely brutal divorce. For the next three and a half days, a portion of my family was enclosed in the confines of a train car, bound for Kentucky. Paducah, Kentucky, where my aunt lived. It was midwinter, and the land was blanketed in snow, with long arms of flat ice that stretched between horizons. At the time, I had just begun to read, and The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, was my favorite book. My mother, several weeks before our trip, had purchased a small stuffed ani- mal for me, identical to the rabbit in Williams’ story. Its ears fell long and slender, and its stomach was lined with soft suede, with a bodily sheen of cotton-trying-to-be-silk. In a time of travel and unknowing, through the entire divorce, I never let it go.

Shann Ray’s American Masculine is a book worthy of being such an anchor. It is a book you cling to in times of chaos, when the whole world is falling apart around you—when you are falling apart too. Its dark beauty, its soft and terrible stories, somehow makes the world you see real, and better.

The author grew up as a non-Indian on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeast Montana. American Masculine, his debut collection of short stories, is primarily set under that hard blue of Montana sky. The characters below walk between rebellion and heritage, addiction and purity, rage and forgiveness, every so often looking upward and outward, considering their hearts, their dreams, and the ones who have been lost. The American West of previous generations has been a setting of legend and myth. Men are silent, strong, tall, unmoving, and alluring in their stoic presence. Landscapes are long and still, their expanses freeing.

That West is now a West of lost things. In its place Shann Ray creates stories of different men: fathers who beat their sons and wives, basketball players who can never leave their small towns, rodeo boys lost in city banks, marriages fraught with adultery, and businessmen drowning in sex and alcohol. The women of his stories, every so often caught up in their own tales of self-destruction, are figures that do their best to quell the tidal forces of violence in the men they love. American Masculine reminds us that the term “masculine” is inherently a social construct, one to be re-created, re-imagined, and re-formed with each telling, with each male, and with each family. Each story tracks the thoughts of a man caught in the pain of his own ruin, one approaching the psychological turn that demands his hardness should end. For some, it is death; for others, the birth of their first child; and for others, the sweet graceful touch of someone who still loves them. For example, in “The Miracles of Vincent Van Gogh,”(which first was published in Ruminate’s Issue 15), Ray writes, “Tangibly they ranged the border between self-sabotage and a new country of grace, and it worried him, the threshold over which a man must pass, the crucible.”

What is most striking about Ray’s style is the melody and rhythm of each sentence. “Lyrical” is a drastic understatement for what he accomplishes, using rich nuance, well-planned diction, striking beauty, and the sharp bite of detail. Both exquisitely crafted and appropriately colloquial, his prose is some of the best stream-of-consciousness writing I’ve read in contemporary fiction. Although the majority of his stories follow traditional structure and form, Ray exhibits great discernment in the inclusion and exclusion of punctuation, internal and external dialogue, and the shifting of time and space. There is a weightiness to his writing, one in which you recognize the great human potential of his characters, and in weighting his words he slows the reader down. Thus, with greater attention, the reader can recognize the magic of the new, the magic of grace and forgiveness.

Thematically, the breadth of Shann Ray’s collection allows him to delve into an array of topics. American Masculine explores many of our deepest insecurities: our fear of deep and true love; our inability to break family cycles of terror; and the overwhelming bonds that keep us in violent stagnancy, addicted stasis, or blinding heartache. He explores familial trends of anger and hate, forgiveness and acceptance, all against a backdrop of what it means to be brave, what it means to have courage, what it means to look squarely in the mirror and do something with what you see. He reminds the reader that a primary part of what it means to be human is the ability to look inside, and challenges men and women to take that look, no matter how scary it may be, even if our shadows seem larger than our sunlit selves. “I’ve been wondering about how to be different than I’ve been,” a father says to his son—a son he once abused and whose mother he has cheated on, a father who has marbled bruises on his family (“In the Half Light”).

Through his characters Shann Ray navigates the ties between violence and love, violence and childhood, violence and its seeds. Yet, violence isn’t enough of a word to describe the scenes that Ray creates; it is more of a deep confusion with the body, with what we can do or undo with it, what we can destroy and overpower. And in its wake, Ray shows us how tired we become, how utterly exhausting it is to carry the world alone. For example, in “The Dark Between Them,” Zeb and his wife, Sara, are trying to have a child together. They are both ex-junkies, and the doctor has just told Zeb that his wife has experienced her third miscarriage. Ray writes of Zeb:

He’d say nothing. Stand as a stuffed man with no mouth or ears, his arms and body so elongated that the shoulders narrowed straight to his neck. He’d pack cotton bunting into the back of his own head to fill the space inside his face. No mouth or ears, but eyes. Black buttons from his father’s first suit. . . . In the silence he thought of men who abuse women, men with sisters, wives, children. He thought of himself as one of these men, empty and consumed by greed, given over.

When one takes steps into such darkness, one is also given room to breathe, space to consider the divine through Ray’s simple echoes of Native American spirituality, biblical scripture, and the deific majesty of creation. Within a loose theological framework, Ray’s stories include dark litanies of the broken-spirited, drastic pleas for tangible love, and prayers for all numbness to cease. Carefully, Ray reminds the reader that many hold a deep desire for suffering to simply reach its end, a cry for quick death, so that in the void beyond they may find freedom and release (as in “Rodin’s The Hand of God” and “The Great Divide”). In “How We Fall,” the first story of the collection, my personal favorite, a woman weighed down by alcoholism, panhandling, and prostitution thinks back to the love she left behind:

In the early morning she touched a thin sheen of water in the bottom of the kitchen sink. She moved her index finger in a cursive pattern and wrote Benjamin’s full name, then erased it, then wrote her own name. The nature of the lines and their slow evaporation worked at her like a thing that gnawed bone. Life is no solace, she told herself, and went back to bed.

Her story, like the others in this collection, does not end without hope. Yet hope, love and faith are not crutches for Ray, they are not easy outs. Each story does not end in kind resolution. Instead, many end with descriptions of an incredibly fragile image of love: a soaring eagle, the sunset behind a driving car, a lone man in a field of crystalline snow, an unmade bed in the first light of dawn.

Within this collection, there is somewhat of a strange similarity in the names of his characters and in their sizes, features, and habits. Each story boasts different cities and families, yet they are wonderfully related echoes of each other that make you feel there is a larger framework for humanity in which we all suffer and love together. Ray defines his Montana setting as “the world without edge and like a dream,” in which we grope towards a love strong enough to heal us. Several stories in this collection were almost unbearable to read in their weight of sadness. One portion of “Rodin’s The Hand of God,” for example, pulls from the ache and nausea we feel when we learn of great tragedy, perversion, and the desecration of the innocent. The only comforting metaphor seems to be found in the constancy of the rocking between day and night, dawn as “a desire, a hunger in the land and sky” for the world to be reborn.

This collection has become my new Velveteen Rabbit. I read it twice over to even begin to start this review, and as I carried it with me, it grew shabbier and shabbier, its spine crushed by the turning of pages, of coffee stains and grubby fingers. As the Skin Horse says to the Velveteen Rabbit, “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to the people who don’t understand.” And maybe, I loved American Masculine with that tenacity. In doing so, Ray reminded me that no matter how ugly we may be, no matter how diseased or broken, when someone truly cares for us we become transformed.

Rita Jones graduated from Westmont College in 2010 with a degree in history and an English minor. This fall she will embark on her next journey in academia as a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her studies will include american intellectual history, women and gender, and american spirituality. Rita was raised on a small farm in the Puget Sound, Washington, and still holds a deep fondness for front porches, lilac blossoms, and cradling chicken eggs in the palm of her hand.


Contributor’s Notes

Aubrey Allison is a BFA writing student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Her favorite things include strong coffee, cold pine forests, and wearing shoes that are silent when she walks. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s taking pictures or embroidering some- thing. Her visual art has been sold in the United States and France, and you can see it at Aubrey created “Introspective” by merging two of her photographs—combining images is one of her favor- ite things to do—to make an expressive self-portrait. It is a picture of inward reflection: a quiet yet active mind.

Matthew Ballou is an artist and writer living in Columbia, Missouri, with his wife Alison and daughter Miranda. He is an assistant teaching professor of painting and drawing in the art department of The University of Missouri, where he has taught since 2007. His artwork is an attempt to address—through archetypal themes and symbols—the fundamental questions, ideas, hopes, and concerns he has about being in the world. This general approach has manifested in an exploration of the morphology of the body—its shapes, angles and internal relation- ships of parts—as a cipher for or vision of human knowledge. Recently his work has been seen in solo shows in Boston and Seattle, as well as in a two-person show with Tim Lowly in Louisville, KY. His extensive article on the work of Odd Nerdrum was the cover feature in Image Journal’s 2006 Summer edition. Ballou has been a contributor to Neoteric Art in Chicago, Illinois, since 2009, and Neoteric released a collection of his essays, titled Nine Texts, in October 2011.

Harry Bauld writes: “My first connection to poetry was my theft at fifteen of a large leather-and-gilt 18th-century edition of Thomas Gray from the Medford (Massachusetts) High School Library. I did not know Thomas Gray and had never actually read a poem intended for adults, but I reasoned even such a beautiful book wouldn’t be missed since its card pocket revealed it had last been checked out in 1953. Years later I gave away the book as a gift and have continued to atone through the years with a Himalaya of rejection notices from the finest literary journals, although several—including The Southern Poetry Review, Nimrod, New Millenium Writings, and The Baltimore Review among others—have considered the penance done. With humility and gratitude I have been allowed to teach poetry and literature as well as coach baseball, basketball, and boxing at independent high schools in New York and New England.”

James Crews was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. His collection of poems, The Book of What Stays, won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and he is the recent recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. In his free time, James writes reviews and essays for basalt magazine and regularly contributes to the (London) Times Literary Supplement. He has worked as a wallpaper salesman, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and an English teacher in rural Oregon. He has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently at work on a PhD in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Temple Cone is the author of three books of poetry, most recently That Singing from March Street Press, and of six chapbooks, most recently The Waters Beyond the Ark from Finishing Line Press. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he is also an avid marathoner, which may have something to do with his having been a medieval flagellant in a past life.

Francis DiClemente lives in Syracuse, New York, where he works as a video producer. In his spare time he writes and takes photographs. He is the author of Outskirts of Intimacy, a poetry chapbook published by Flutter Press. His photographs have been exhibited in small galleries in upstate New York and have also appeared in some literary magazines. He received a BA in communications/journalism from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, and an MA in film/video from American University in Washington, DC. More of his photographs can be seen at www. He writes: “I am fascinated by the simple juxtaposition of light and shadow in whatever form it takes, and I strive to discover interesting images amid ordinary surroundings.”

Rita Jones graduated from Westmont College in 2010 with a degree in history and an English minor. This fall she will embark on her next journey in academia as a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her studies will include american intellectual history, women and gender, and american spirituality. Rita was raised on a small farm in the Puget Sound, Washington, and still holds a deep fondness for front porches, lilac blossoms, and cradling chicken eggs in the palm of her hand.

Becca J.R. Lachman teaches and tutors at Ohio University. Her first poetry collection, The Apple Speaks (Cascadia Publishing House, 2012), is dedi- cated “to humanitarian workers around the globe, but more for the fami- lies who love them.” This past year, she’s been on a book-and-arts tour encouraging the public role of the artist within community and teaching storytelling/poetry workshops for intergenerational groups of women. A grateful and recent grad of the Bennington Writing Seminars, her written work has appeared or is forthcoming in Image, Swink, Alimentum: The Literature of Food, Octave Magazine, On Being’s blog for American Public Media, and elsewhere. Becca muses about everyday Anabaptism, music, the writing life, and living in a college town at tattooedmennonite.

Laurie Lamon’s poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Criterion, Ploughshares, and other magazines and journals, including the anthology 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Ordinary Days, edited by Billy Collins, and the Poetry Daily and Verse Daily websites. In 2007 she received a Witter Bynner award, selected by Poet Laureate Donald Hall. Her two collections of poetry are The Fork Without Hunger and Without Wings, CavanKerry Press (NJ), 2005 and 2009. She is a pro- fessor of English at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. She lives with her husband and their two Scottish Terriers, Maude and Oscar.

Kelly Michels received her MFA from North Carolina State University where she also received the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work has been featured in Best New Poets 2012, Nimrod, Mad Poet’s Review, and Blue Fifth Review, among others. She loves spending time with her (polar opposite) blue-eyed, blond-haired little sister and is addicted to decaf coffee, Irish and Greek independent film, art deco design, and the smell of the ocean. She lives in Raleigh where she dreams of impossibly simple things like owning an old house to fix up or adopting a duckling. More in- formation about her work can be found at

Robert McKean writes: “I have had stories published in The Kenyon Review, The Chicago Review, The Dublin Quarterly, and elsewhere. My in- progress collection of stories was a finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, and the Sewanee Writers’ Series, and I have been awarded a Massachusetts Artist’s grant. Nearly all of my fiction is set in Western Pennsylvania. The characters and their extended families in my work, who appear and reap- pear in various stories, form a diverse ethnic, racial, and generational stew of lives and passions played out over the decades from the 1930s through contemporary times. I believe that we write when we are young in the belief that we have something to say; I believe now, after writing for four decades, that we write in the hope that we have something to hear.”

Carolyn Moore‘s three previous chapbooks won their respective competitions as has her latest collection, The Seven Deadlies, pending publication from Interrobang?!. She taught at Humboldt State University until she was able to eke out a living as a freelance writer and researcher, working from the last vestige of the family farm in Tigard, Oregon.

Poet and prose writer Shann Ray’s collection of stories, American Masculine (Graywolf, 2011) won the Bakeless Prize. He is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and the author of the creative nonfiction book of political theory Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Little- field, 2011). Born and raised in Montana, he spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation and played college basketball at Montana State University and Pepperdine University and professional basketball in Germany. He now lives in Spokane, Washington, where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University and enjoys family dance night at home pretty much every night with his wife and daughters.

Nicole Rollender’s poetry and nonfiction have been published in various literary magazines, including Alaska Quarterly Review, the strange fruit, Literary Mama, Salt Hill Journal and Creative Nonfiction. Her poetry chapbook Arrangement of Desire was published by Pudding House Publications in 2007. Nicole, who has an MFA in creative writing from Penn State University, is editor of Stitches magazine, which has been nominated for two Jesse H. Neal Awards and won the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Magazine of the Year Award in 2011. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats in Southern New Jersey, on the edge of the Pine Barrens. Nicole loves exploring Civil War battlefields and re-reading her very-tattered Agatha Christie mysteries.

Matthew Roth teaches English and creative writing at Messiah College, in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, two children, two cats, three ducks, and five hens. His book of poems, Bird Silence, was published in 2009 by the Woodley Press.

Wesley Rothman serves as assistant poetry editor for Narrative magazine and senior poetry reader for Ploughshares. Recipient of a Lindsay J. Cropper Poetry Award, his poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Bellingham Review, Salamander, Newcity, The Critical Flame, and elsewhere. Rothman holds degrees from the University of San Diego and Emerson College and teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Mitchell Untch was a finalist in the 2012 International Cavafy Poetry Competition and has or will soon appear in Nimrod, Quiddity, Jabberwock Review, James Dickey Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Confrontation, among others. A native Californian, Mr. Untch is a twin and began writing five years ago. He is currently working on a project with poet Spencer Reece, a member of the Archdiocese of Spain, who, in 2013, will be teaching young women in Honduras that have been abused and neglected, the art of writing poetry. Mr. Untch may be reached at Jaenote@roadrunner. com. He gives thanks to the staff of Ruminate for their hard work and to Li-Young Lee for his years of writing from that luminous “inner voice” of his that speaks to us all with such keen intelligence and beauty.

Gary J. Whitehead’s third book of poetry, A Glossary of Chickens, will be published by Princeton University Press in early 2013. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and journals, most notably in The New Yorker. Gary works as a high school English teacher at Tenafly High School in New Jersey, and he lives in the Hudson valley of New York, where he enjoys gardening and oil painting. Gary is also a professional cruciverbalist, or crossword constructor, and has published a dozen crosswords in The New York Times.

Tarn Wilson has recently been published in Brevity, Gulf Stream, Inertia, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and The Sun. She earned her masters in education from Stanford and her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop and now teaches high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of her most recent obsessions include: iBird, daily journaling, sparkly shoes, outdoor adventures, the radio show This American Life—and trying to be the best possible listener, teacher, and friend she can be.

Tony Woodlief lives in North Carolina and Washington, DC. His essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The London Times, and his short stories, two of which have been nominated for Pushcart prizes, have been published in Image, Ruminate, and Saint Katherine Review. His website is


Last Note

Ruminate Contributors on Unraveling the Dark…

Losing my mother to cancer was the source of an eclipsing external darkness, yet the last several years of my life have been spent wading through a new and different shadow—that of an internal lack of self-love, and self-acceptance. It is that precipice that has struck me as the most debilitating force of adulthood. Walking out from that shadow, into a land of new vision, is the next endeavor.
                                                                                               Rita Jones BOOK REVIEW

Carl Jung said be careful of the shadow, but don’t fight it. Draw it close, as you would a good brother or a good sister, and listen to what it whispers in your ear. I love his closeness and intimacy with the fact that we are all made up of shadow and light, and the discernment we gain with regard to this is what forms the basis of our moral responsibility in the world. And referring to God, Joel said, He knows what dwells in the darkness and light dwells with Him. For me, I want to be able to ask loved ones to help show me my shadow. In response I hope to ask forgiveness and change. Then we can walk into the valley of the shadow of death together, and emerge into life.
                                                                                               Shann Ray POETRY

It is not a rare thing, I know, to be heartbroken in high school. Or to be heartbroken at all: to kneel on the floor, staring at the shattered pieces of your heart. I hope it is not a rare thing to also have your gaze lifted, slowly, gently, by art, by music — instrumental music first, and not love songs. Gradually you can handle words, poetry. Your gaze lifts, and you find you are kneeling at Christ’s feet. With grace He is forming a new heart in you, better than the old, clunky high school heart. I want to be part of that gaze-lifting force for others. Being pushed to your knees is not a rare thing, and maybe that’s the way it needs to be. You have to get kneeling somehow.
                                                                                               Aubrey Allison VISUAL ART

In 1995, I worked as a fire lookout on the summit of Up Up Mountain, in the Bitterroots of Montana. The tower where I lived was a glassed- in 14×14 room with a narrow catwalk around the outside, forty-four feet off the ground. One very dark night, when the tower was completely swaddled in clouds, I walked out onto the catwalk and found myself face to face with another man, whose shadowy figure stood, I swear, in the air beyond the railing. It took me a few startled breaths to realize that I was seeing my own shadow against the cloud, lit up by the white light of the lookout’s lone lantern. I can still feel the buzz in my nerves.
                                                                                               Matthew Roth POETRY

When researching American poet William Stafford and his time as a WWII conscientious objector, I came across an anthology of oral histories collected from some of the 12,000 men who, like Stafford, served in Civilian Public Service in the 1940s. Imagine my awe when, skimming the table of contents I not only saw Stafford’s name listed, but also my grandfather’s. “The darkness around us is deep,” Stafford wrote. Though my grandpa was a quiet man, I wish he’d told more stories about living out his Anabaptist faith in the great shadow of war.
                                                                                               Becca J.R. Lachman POETRY

Your parents knit darkness right onto your body so you cannot pull it off—their depression and addictions and restlessness and sorrows woven in black yarn. Even now, years later, you carry that scratchy, suffocating weight against your skin. But notice, the sweater is wearing thin. If you look—you must look—you can find loose ends. Find them by writing. Pay attention to those who point them out to you, those places your old story no longer fits. Pull. You will be nervous: each dark memory you tug loose will link to another memory, and you will fear your own unraveling. Hold that yarn in your hand. Examine it. It’s not solid at all, but made of emotions and old beliefs: it vibrates for a moment, then disintegrates. Tug. Pull. Look. Underneath, your own bright garment shimmers.
                                                                                               Tarn Wilson NONFICTION

If Vermeer is a painter of light, Caravaggio is a painter of the dark— his carefully wrought, emotionally precise subjects the center of his paintings, sharp against the charcoal-into-black background. In one of my favorite paintings, Caravaggio has painted a woman seated, draped in red and white robes, her collarbone gesturing in emotion (its hollow dark) and her head thrust upward, so you never see her face— just the emotion working her neck muscles, up into her jaw. I see her contemplation in the dark; she’s in solitude; she’s in an agitated state. For me, the dark is where you’re alone with your soul and body, where you work out the things you fear most. It’s where you come face to face with yourself, but you don’t turn on the light.
                                                                                               Nicole Rollender POETRY

I, like most people I imagine, long for a blueprint—for the blueprint. Better yet, maybe one of those architect’s sketches of the building-to- be, the handsome skyscraper, the impressionistic daubs of green for trees and shrubs, the cars in various jellybean colors silently motoring by, the tiny wisps of pedestrians lingering in the optimistic light of an indefinite sun. Alas, I don’t believe there is a blueprint, nor are there operator instructions or notes on what to do in case of malfunction. I malfunction, often; most people I know do. Our architect sketches would have the building leaning sideways, the shrubs sprouting in the middle of the sidewalk, the pedestrians holding their arms over their heads until they hear the all-clear. The good news is, if you listen closely, some nights, in the dark, you can hear that all-clear.
                                                                                               Robert McKean FICTION

Being in the dark is like becoming invisible. Away from the laughter of broad daylight, lines are blurred and all shapes fade away. Maybe it is a retreat, when one can not face the obviousness of life any more.
                                                                                               Ivan de Monbrison VISUAL ART

An interesting truth my drawing students eventually grasp is that the strongest, densest dark in their pictures is—usually—right next to the brightest light. As cliché as it might seem, this fact translates to the vagaries of belief and hope as well. My darkest, most doubt-filled hours have also been times of distinct spiritual clarity where misty, undifferentiated fog flees away and I can sense the edge between right and wrong, between what ought to be and what is. And so I often wander the shadow lands, if only to glimpse the strong light that can only be seen there.
                                                                                               Matthew Ballou VISUAL ART