“Grafted Branches” by Jeanine Bee

When I was in third grade, our class spent some time studying world cultures. We each chose a country and prepared a project to share with the class detailing things like “geography,” and “traditional dress.” When it was my turn to present my country, I stood proudly and announced to my class that I was part Mexican.

I am not Hispanic.

In fact, my lineage is almost entirely British. I have fair skin and blue-green eyes. I imagine my teacher was probably confused at my declaration, but I was too busy describing the local diet to notice.

Later that evening, my parents took the time to explain to me that while, yes, my great-grandmother had been born in Mexico, it’s not like I had a long line of Mexican ancestors. Verona was every bit as British as her parents before her. They had just been living in Mexico when Verona was born.

“You mean, like they were on vacation?” I asked.

“Sort of,” my mom said.

They were not on vacation.

But it was a school night and, as a parent now, I empathize with my mom’s decision to end the line of questioning there.  In actuality, my great-grandmother, Verona Richardson, had been born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in the Mormon polygamist Colonia Juárez.


As it turns out, these early experiences were not an anomaly, but rather the beginning of a confusing lifelong pattern. Every time I thought I had an understanding of who my family was and where we came from, I’d learn something different. It was like being handed a puzzle piece that never quite fit with the ones I already had. For example: though, as I learned in third grade, I am not exactly Mexican, so many of our family traditions have been influenced by the Richardson’s life in Mexico—like our enchiladas. Verona learned how to make red enchilada sauce from scratch in Mexico, and we’ve been making that sauce as a family ever since. There are no written instructions for the sauce; it’s been passed down from parent to child, learning by watching and doing. It’s less of recipe and more of a ritual.

At some point I came to learn that no one else did enchiladas quite like us. My friends always envisioned the enchiladas from the Mexican restaurant in the shopping center next to Rite Aid—little tortilla cylinders stuffed with ground beef and drowned in a red sauce that tasted like the can it had come from. Our enchiladas are different. They are a celebration of the chili sauce. Tortillas are stacked like pancakes on a plate. Tortilla, sauce, cheese, onion. Repeat. When I compared the tiny tortilla tubes to our plates heaped with soft fried corn tortillas, each dressed in a fresh, velvety chili sauce, I knew that our enchiladas were what made our family unique.

We were not unique.

But it wasn’t until I was a teenager that we met the Wrights. Their eyes lit up in recognition when my dad described our stacked enchiladas. “Yes!” they exclaimed. “We thought we were the only ones!” Church history had taken their family to the colonies in Mexico, and they had also emerged with the enchilada stacks. But then my dad started to reminisce about our sauce-making ritual. He waxed poetic about processing the leathery, red chilies , peeling them open to remove the seeds and veins, the dust from the dried peppers wafting into the air and bringing tears (of joy? Irritation? Both?) to your eyes.

The Wrights just smiled politely. “Oh,” they said. “We make our sauce with tomatoes.”


“Oh, yeah,” the Wrights said. “Our ancestors were on the wealthier side, so they made their enchilada sauce with tomatoes. The colonists who weren’t as… well off… made their sauce from chilies.”

“Excuse me?” my entire family—dead and alive—said collectively.


My understanding of my family history and culture is still evolving. But the times when it feels most relevant to me personally are the times when it brings the loose threads of my family story together.

My mom’s side of the family lives in Missouri, and did not join the church until just sixty years ago. They don’t have the strange, hybrid culture that my dad’s side of the family does. But I’ve often heard the story of my depression-era grandpa bringing my depression-era grandma a squirrel from the backyard to prepare for dinner. My grandma grimaced and said, “Oh, Billy. You know squirrels are so greasy!” My dad has, on more than one occasion, teased my mom about that story and the unsophisticated cuisine of her country upbringing. So when my mom heard that the magic chili sauce was “poor-people food,” her eyes lit up.

“We should serve it with a side of squirrel!” she teased. (My mom loves the chili sauce just as much as the rest of our family. She just couldn’t resist the jab.)

The Wright’s revelation had brought the enchilada story full circle for me. I wasn’t very Mexican, and the enchiladas didn’t make us special. Rather, I came from people on both sides of my family who sacrificed to make do. People who were willing to uproot their lives to take care of their families, whether that was traveling across the great dustbowl and making a meal of squirrels, or relocating to Mexico and subsisting on a sauce made from dried chili peppers. That fact alone adds more flavor to a meal than any spice you can buy.

Though, to be clear, we did eventually invite the Wrights over for an enchilada taste-off, and, while their sauce did not taste as much like bland ketchup as I thought it would, I’d take our “poor-people” enchiladas any day.

“Christ in Gethsemane” written and translated by Gabriel González Núñez

For the original Spanish, click here.

Christ in Gethsemane

Ekphrastic poem after Carl Bloch’s painting by the same name

I have not enjoyed the privilege
of walking through the halls
of Frederiksborg Castle
of strolling in front of its paintings
of finding astonishment in its art
but I did enjoy the privilege
of trembling
before the pictorial display
that Carl Bloch named Kristus i Gestsemane have
which I cannot pronounce
but I did experience.

The work was transported
from Old Europe
to New America
placed wholly
in a transformed surrounding.
In the museum
it was given its own room
the high altar.
In the museum’s nave
there it awaited
for the arrival
of art parishioners.
There it awaited
for my arrival.

 And he came out
and went
as he was wont
to the mount of Olives.

I arrived without knowing
that there it sat
expecting me.
When I entered into its room
into the nave
time started dragging
moving more and more slowly
until it stopped altogether.
Before the master’s masterpiece
there lay rows of empty chairs.
In that stopping of time
there I sat to gaze in contemplation.

And he was withdrawn from them
about a stone’s cast
and kneeled down
and prayed
and being in an agony
he prayed more earnestly
and his sweat was
as it were great drops of blood
falling down to the ground
and there appeared an angel unto him from heaven
strengthening him.

The painting was
of cosmic proportions.
It was a sea of deep blackness
a pair of abysmal jaws
an engulfing darkness,
and in the center of that hole
a bright and red robe
a bright and white robe
all of it illuminated
as if by large high-intensity beams,
a Man exhausted
worn down
in his clothes of blood and wine,
an Angel saddened
kneeling on a primordial stone
an uncrackable rock
an Angel that caresses the Man’s crown
all in this moment of silence
of unending blackness
by an old, leafless tree.

When he rose up from prayer
and was come to his disciples
he found them sleeping
for sorrow.


The room seems dark
I feel the light of a secret sobbing
of a crimson horror
the colossal weight of an infinite blackness
of a heaven broken into swaying shards
of heavy shadows
like the depths of the ocean.
Behind me someone walks in
and the second hand on the clock retakes its cycle.
I stand up.
I leave the museum.

Since then
I carry the memory
of that enormous blackness
of a blackness that grows year after years
and also
the memory
of the light
which that abyss
of millions upon millions of dead nebulae
cannot find a way to extinguish.

“Cristo en el huerto de Getsemaní” de Gabriel González Núñez

For the English translation, click here

Cristo en el huerto de Getsemaní

Poema ecfrástico a partir de la obra homónima de Carl Bloch

No tengo el privilegio
de haber recorrido los pasillos
del Palacio de Frederiksborg
de pasearme frente a sus cuadros
de admirarme ante su arte
mas tuve el privilegio
de estremecerme
frente al despliegue pictórico
que Carl Bloch llamó Kristus i Gestsemane have
que no sé pronunciar
pero supe vivenciar.

La obra fue transportada
de la vieja Europa
a la nueva América
depositada intacta
en un entorno transformado.
En el museo
le dieron cuarto propio
el altar mayor.
En la nave central del lugar
allí aguardaba
la llegada de los feligreses del arte.
Allí aguardaba
mi llegada.

 Y saliendo
se fue
como solía
al monte de los Olivos.

 Llegué sin saber
que allí estaba
Cuando entré en su cuarto propio
en la nave central
el tiempo empezó a arrastrarse
comenzó a enlentecerse
llegó a detenerse.
Frente a la obra maestra del maestro
había hileras de sillas vacías.
En ese detenerse del tiempo
allí me senté a contemplar.

Y él se apartó
a distancia como de un tiro de piedra
y puesto de rodillas

y estando en agonía
oraba más intensamente
y era su sudor
como grandes gotas de sangre
y se le apareció un ángel del cielo
para fortalecerle.

El cuadro tenía
proporciones cósmicas.
Era un mar de negro hondo
unas fauces abismales
una tenebrosidad absorbente,
y en el centro del hueco
una luz
una túnica reluciente y roja
una túnica reluciente y blanca
todo iluminado
como con enormes focos de alta intensidad,
un Varón exhausto
en sus ropajes de sangre y vid,
un Ángel triste
hincado sobre una piedra primordial
una roca inquebrable
un Ángel que acaricia la coronilla del Varón
con ternura,
todo en el silencio
de un negro inacabable
de un árbol viejo y deshojado.

 Cuando se levantó de la oración
y vino a sus discípulos
los halló durmiendo
a causa de la tristeza.

El cuarto parece oscuro
Siento la luz de un sollozo secreto
de un horror carmesí
el peso colosal de un negro infinito
de un cielo quebrado en esquirlas pendulantes
de sombras pesadas
como las profundidades del océano.
A mis espaldas entra alguien
y el segundero del reloj retoma su ciclo.
Me pongo de pie.
Salgo del lugar.

Desde entonces
me acompaña el recuerdo
de aquella negrura inmensa
de una negrura que crece con los años
y también
el recuerdo
de la luz
que ese abismo
de millones de millones de nébulas extintas
no logra apagar.

“Blood in the Garden” by Whitney Hemsath

Blood spills on the garden floor.
It isn’t mine
but should be.

My fig leaves, like ignorance, itch to be shed.
They will not be enough beyond the garden—I know that now.
I know we need these coats of skin.

But the beasts—their blood!
It drips like juice from fresh-bit fruit
and stains the soil red.

I cling to the discomfort of my apron because I did not know.
How could I have known?
I thought only those who ate would pay.

With sharpened stone and solemn face our brother calls more beasts.
We wait—for choice ever blooms in this garden—
and I weep as more gentle friends come.

Answering his call, they choose among the flowers
where they will lie,
where they will die,
where they will bleed to cover my cost.

One day when I bring through my blood our own fruit
and these precious skins cover my own,
I may forget the perfumes of Eden,
the heat of the sword all aflame,
but never the trampled flowers under willing hooves
or the far-future promise
of blood in a garden

that won’t be mine
but should be.

“Through a Glass” by Alixa Brobbey

The day before the world unlocked
into geometric shapes, trees were blobs.
Angles were rounded, glowing things,
every object blending into its neighbor.

The way the world unlocked, it rather
shattered into a million tiny grains.
Trees became petals dotted with veins,
but fog threatened to cloud the scene.

So, imagine the joy of godly bifocals,
seeing both star and seed, both
wrinkles and woolen whispers, both
balm and bile, salt and sweet, all
stretching and shrinking through eternity.

“2 Coats” by Jared Forsyth

Wanted: someone who deserves this coat

Someone asked me for my coat today
I didn’t give it to them

I couldn’t be sure they deserved it

I’m not sure I deserve it
and my cloak is plenty warm

if you deserve this coat
you can have it

please bring adequate proof

Homework #5-40

How do you respond when someone asks for your coat?

Do they deserve it? [y/n]

Do you deserve it? [y/n]

Does anyone deserve this coat? [y/n]

And if not, to whom is it to be given? _______________

And to whom do you give the cloak also?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________