Rock [and Sling] Steady, Baby

Literature has always been God’s language- Nicholas Yingling, Rock and Sling

My first venture to McNally Jackson lead me to pick up a copy of Rock and Sling, a literary magazine that credits itself as being a “literary journal of witness.”  The journal was founded in 2004 by Susan Cowger in Spokane, Washington. I hadn’t initially expected much and will admit that I did choose the magazine based on the cover design and price (a measly $10? Not bad) and read away. There were several to choose from and I wanted to take them all home with me, but I do not have the disposable income or minutes to do so.

When I picked up 12.1, I felt as though I was placed in darkness, though this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. So many poems were rooted in the spirit being at war with the body.  The theme was very spiritual with many poems of sacrifice and longing. Amy Sawyer’s “The Altar” described a pregnant speaker who acknowledged, seemingly with agony, the takeover of her body by a fetus in utero. “I am heavy with child,” she writes,  noting the ability of the fetus to occupy her, so fully and wholly, to the point where her body really isn’t her own; it serves as “his temple.” It’s sorrowful because the poem opens with reference to sacrifice. “These are the altars we know. There is no ram in the bushes” she says, discussing the violence and pitfalls of the world. There is no place to be safe.

“Love Hustle” by Catherine Cowie feels very sensual. In her memory she recalls dancing, “hips shaking/deep/down deep” and looking for what seems to be a temporary, artificial sense of comfort, a “lesser god,” she writes. References to water and light symbolize creation and knowledge that she doesn’t want to become acquainted with.

I really enjoyed how both Sawyer’s and Cowie’s poems have a theme of wanting; there is this need for relief of some sort with both because they are searching for something, or something is being taken away. There is also a sense of discomfort in their atmospheres. The spaces they occupy should feel comfortable; comfort in one’s own body or dancing with a significant other. But they don’t. There’s a spiritual disruption, and that really resonated with me. I couldn’t help but think of how, in a way of thinking about God and religion, it’s made to seem as though the most nuanced things truly matter; praying on your knees and not while you’re laying in the comfort of your bed. Going to church on Sunday when all you want to do is sleep in. Putting on those frilly socks that itch. There’s a burdensome feeling of tradition and not feeling truly a part of it. It’s a part of you because you’re made to do it.

Below is a poem I wrote, called “Falling Asleep During A Prayer.”

PB Screenshot

The explication may well be with you, reader. But to contextualize it, I’m praying, like any Christian girl should. I’m not kneeling, not assuming any humbling pose whatsoever. My prayer is a simple conversation. And in that way, I might have what  Sawyer and Cowie do not; although I break away from spiritual and religious norms by praying the way I do, I like to think I have some spiritual autonomy that sets me free.


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