Stonework is published by Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college located in New York’s rural Genesee Valley. Stonework seeks a diverse mix of mature and emerging voices in fellowship with the evangelical tradition. Published twice a year, the journal reflects the arts community at Houghton College where excellence in music, writing, and the visual arts has long been a distinctive.

Stonework Journal Home

Letters to the Editor

Stonework Staff

Submission Guidelines

Editorial Philosophy

Our Favorite Links

E-mail Stonework:

  • Issue 6
    Poetry by Paul Willis and Thom Satterlee. Fiction and interview with Lori Huth. Essay by James Wardwell, and student poets from Christian campuses.
  • Issue 5
    Poetry by Susanna Childress and Debra Rienstra. Fiction excerpt by Emilie Griffin. Art from Houghton's 2007 presidential inauguration and a forum on women writing.
  • Issue 4
    Matthew Roth--new poems. Diane Glancy--from One of Us and an interview. John Tatter-on gardens and poetry. The Landscapes of John Rhett. Stephen Woolsey--on the poetry of Jack Clemo. James Wardwell--on Herrick.
  • Issue 3
    Poetry by Julia Kasdorf, Robert Siegel and Sandra Duguid. Fiction by Tom Noyes. The portraits of Alieen Ortlip Shea. An anthology of Australian Poets
  • Issue 2
    Thom Satterlee - Poems from Burning Wycliff with an appreciation by David Perkins. Alison Gresik - new fiction and an interview. James Zoller - Poems from Living on the Floodplain.
  • Issue 1
    Luci Shaw — new poems with an appreciation by Eugene H. Peterson & Hugh Cook — new fiction and an interview

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From: Introducing Paloma

~Emilie Griffin

Justin Harris decided on an all-night vigil. He would wait until midnight; surely by then everybody would have deserted the deck. He would go out and pray under the stars. Now he had something special to pray for: the soul of Paloma Weaver. She was so good, he explained to the Lord. And clearly, she had some heavy sin on her conscience. "If only I were already a priest, I could hear her confession. I could give her the forgiveness you desire, Lord. But as things stand, being only a candidate for your priesthood, I am unable to help her. Except by being, possibly, an occasion of grace."
Justin said all this while he was still inside the cabin. Later on, under the stars, he would really open up.
"Of course, she is not a Catholic, Lord, but being an Episcopalian is very close." Justin Harris was somewhat hazy on church history. He knew there had been some unpleasantness between England and Rome, but it was so long ago. And far away. Surely the Lord must consider Paloma to be in a state of grace. "Lord, you will surely overlook the inconvenient fact that she is a Protestant and gather her into your flaming, tender heart."
One thing was clear to him. Jesus was all-powerful. If Jesus wanted to, he could enter into Paloma's fallen condition and snap the bonds of sin that were entrapping her. She could be released from the prison of any transgression large or small. He, Justin Harris, could not accomplish this. But the Lord Jesus could surely arrange it.
Minutes passed slowly. They inched. They slowed to a standstill. But in spite of that, bells sounded as each half hour went by.
Eight bells at last. Midnight. Justin went out on deck. A fine spray scattered through the railings. Stars and planets soared overhead. Were those constellations? He could name just a few. Ursa Minor, the little bear. Ursa Major, the great bear. Easy enough. He would have to look up the rest. Maybe Paloma knew them. No wonder the ancients thought their gods lived above, in total splendor.
"God, you are completely remarkable," Justin said.
God, who had created all this, could certainly save lovely Paloma Weaver. "Please look kindly on her, Lord. She is misguided in some way. Maybe this fellow Art McGee has misled her. Forgive her and make her whole again."
After Justin had poured out his concerns, he decided to let Jesus talk awhile.
Jesus was very firm. "She belongs to me, Justin, not to you," Jesus said. It hurt Justin to hear it, but he knew Jesus was right. "Your will, Lord, not mine," he said after a while.

* * * * * *

When she fell asleep--she did not know how long she had been sleeping--Paloma had a dream. She was deep underwater on the ocean floor, held down by terrible weights, metal weights like the ones on the doctor's scales. Those weights were her sins; they would hold her down forever, way under the surface of the waves. Paloma was afraid she would find the body of Logan Gray drifting along the ocean floor. But no; it was all mollusks and seaweed and corals. The place was curious: valleys and ridges and long prehistoric-looking fish glowing with luminescence; when they darted away it was desolate, silent and hostile and dark.
She bobbed along on the ocean floor. After awhile she came to an underwater church, doors and windows open to the flowing deep-sea currents. Inside was Jesus, nailed to the cross. Blood trailed from his body into the currents flowing past.
Jesus again! She couldn't get away from him. Even on the ocean floor, Jesus was there.

* * * * * *

Eight bells. Four a.m. Paloma woke with a start and her mother kept on sleeping. "Every time I dream it is either about water, or about Jesus, or both," Paloma thought. The little cabin was completely dark. Where were they? She snapped the porthole open but saw nothing.
She dressed quickly and headed into the passageway, up the metal stairs, out on deck. Oh, the wind was cool.
She hoped she would find Justin Harris and return his book. And yes, he was right there.
"I prayed for you," he said.
"Prayed for me to come out here?"
"Prayed for God to take care of you."
"I believe in other gods. Gods of the deep."
"What gods?"
"You know, Neptune, Poseidon, Proteus. Under the waves."
"Really? You're a pagan?"
"Oh, I'm not sure about that. I don't know what I am."
Justin wasn't really shocked. He was interested. The anthropologist took over while the Jesuit caught his breath.
"After I read your beautiful poem I felt sure of it. Your gods, the horses of the sun, were once alive, but now they are dead. And the universe is empty, lonely, the Greek gods and goddesses who once inhabited the solar system are not real, they don't exist, and you have no God to comfort you."
But Paloma was slightly offended at being called a pagan. It really didn't seem fair.
"Didn't I notice, when we were in Honduras," Paloma went on, "you can be a pagan and a Christian at the same time?"
"Are you baptized?" Justin knew it was rude to ask but he simply had to know.
"Oh, probably. But don't I have to believe in Jesus, too?"
"I'll keep on praying."
"Please do."
They stood together, looking out into the dark.
Paloma felt exalted. She had exerted such power over him, the power of her words on a page. Her soul had spoken to him, and he was deeply moved.
After a while Justin asked, "Are you in love with him?"
"He follows you everywhere. Lights your cigarettes. Gets nervous when I take up your time."
"Maybe he does care. I'm not sure."
"But do you care?"
"I want to be in love. Someone is supposed to come along and sweep me off my feet."
"Like the movies?"
His heart was aching. He thought he could feel the passion of her heart aching, too. This beautiful young woman with the soul of a poet longed to be comforted, but he, Justin, wasn't fully able to take on the challenge. Yet he loved her, he was sure of it. Their souls were linked somehow, and they stood together in the dark like twin constellations.
Then they heard something, way down at the water's edge. A small vessel was approaching them in the dark.
Next came a kind of commotion as someone climbed up a ladder, over the side.
Just then the first officer, Mr. O'Malley, turned up
"It's the bar pilot," O'Malley explained. "We need him to get us in."
"Are we that close to the mouth of the river?"
"Getting pretty close."

* * * * *

"Does your mother know you're out here?" Justin said. "Will she disapprove?"
"She disapproves of you, any time of night or day," Paloma said. "She doesn't know what we talk about."
More silence. Then.
"I had a bad dream. Jesus under the waves."
"Wasn't that a good dream? Jesus riding a porpoise, like Proteus coming over the foam?"
"Always changing shape and form," Paloma said.
She could feel the voyage ending, time closing in. Everything would soon be over. She stood at the railing and stared into the dark, waiting for some sign of a shore. How long did she stand there?
Justin had gone, maybe she hadn't heard him say goodbye. She was alone in the dark, and the water was rushing against the hull.
Then she could see the outline of trees, small crabby trees, and the light coming behind them, rosy-fingered dawn.
Deep horns blew, and other horns answered them, and Paloma was suddenly praying.
Praying they wouldn't run aground. Praying that barges wouldn't collide, that ships wouldn't sink and the end of the world would hold off for a while.
Jesus, she prayed. Jesus. She amazed herself. She said the name again. Help me to know what love is, she said.
She found herself thinking about brown eyes.
Art McGee, who wasn’t studying for the priesthood, had brown eyes. He was earthy enough.
He did not have sea-green eyes, and his eyelashes were not mystical.
His look was not far away. He met your gaze.
He was so unholy. She wanted that.
Hymen was the god of marriage, but Hymen was broken.
With her left hand, she felt for her great-grandmother's emerald ring, still on her hand, and was glad she had not sacrificed it to the gods of the deep.
Now she could really see the trees in silhouette.
Oh, yes.
She could make out the trees on either bank of the river, and the light was coming up strong. They were going up river; there were bends in the river and though the light was coming brighter and brighter she could not see ahead.