What might St. Peter and St. John have been thinking in this moment? What were they anticipating? Was there any doubt or skepticism? Was it relief and hopefulness, even elation?
In Eugène Burnand’s most beloved 1898 oil on canvas, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection, all we get from the Swiss painter are the facial expressions of both disciples. On them are written the full emotional drama of what it means to expect a prophecy come true, the gilded sky of morning already testament to the prospect of sheer joy.
We go on an astronomical jaunt with Shelly Bryant’s “Travels Through the Kuiper Belt” and “Saturn, and His Heir”, with “22 June 1633” centred on Galileo Galilei’s thoughts on Copernican heliocentrism, that the earth revolved around the sun. We also encounter the religion-science wrangle in chemistry teacher Low Kian Seh’s “maybe God is a barista” and “the scientific method”. Then, in a poetic sequence, Jack Xi explores the theory of natural selection, scored with found texts from Jerry A. Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.
What is it like to encounter one’s own spiritual growth, as curious and stirring the moments? What moment turned out most trying, confounding all expectation perhaps? How, then, do our expectations—our ideas, theologies, emotions, values, character, conduct—shift to accommodate our new sense of things? Is there a need to recalibrate and redraw one’s own suppositions? Perhaps we find ourselves retracing our steps to our own early rousings of belief. Perhaps we discover the new in the old through reaching out to the Church Fathers, rereading their wisdom.
Of returning to beginnings, we learn that Joshua Ip grew up in a missionary family, while David Wong Hsien Ming discovered poetry “at a Sunday lunch”. In his poem “Eschatology, or the loss of a job”, Wong discloses: “Call loss the price of grace, / if that makes things easier / —what does the skin know, anyway? / Only the smearing of atom upon atom. // Only that being is the only broken thing / that breaks again.”
This chapter delivers a platter of unexpected twists and turns, in theme and aesthetic. Readers are treated to the Baroque stylings—what opulence, what florid imagery—of Cuban-American poet Orlando Ricardo Menes. One stumbles onto Ho Kin Yunn’s concrete poem about a well, “Bethuel’s affirmation”, its sharp angles to trace the shape of a crank handle. There’s the architecture of memory when Yong Shu Hoong speaks of “too many funeral wakes”, pulling into his poem Johnny Cash, then James Cleveland Moore, Sr. In “Taliesin”, dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright, we are brought into the “home” of such a meditative space, Yong’s “last bastion / against a world off-kilter, defending / what defines [him]—[his] love transmutable / only by the whitest flames”.
In the same way, we are “taken” from “house to church”, in Diane Glancy’s “Quiltline” and “Texas Quilt Museum, LaGrange”. In “The Gospel of Mark Ends Abruptly”, Glancy contemplates academic speculations that the Markan narrative might have ended at Mark 16:8, with any added verses actually interpolated by another scribe.
In the final author pairing, we arrive at beautiful ekphrastic pieces. Iain Lim Jun Rui delves into 1780s German intellectual thought in “a peripheral study on the Pantheismusstreit”. Before that, we receive art critic Joseph Stanton’s stellar suite of poems. Through his poems “Piero di Cosimo’s Saint John” and “Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal”, Stanton deftly shows us how to gaze upon the deposition and ingenuity of art—how sublime the expressed virtuosity—how his critical eye may surface such lyric brilliance, radiant in its clarity.