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Photo by Neil Shea

Subway Rorschach

In the new city we carry our newborn son down the block and into the subway. His first journey, diving under rivers, piercing webs of pipes and wires, rattling past ghost stations and lunch boxes lost by the sandhogs a century ago. They say in new cities you are given grace—some time in which to believe anything, to dodge blame, to gather memories that years from now will fall like hail on unlucky relatives. Who knows? We’re tired and the kid, this lump, warm and dense as dough, is getting heavy. While the car idles (and before he spits up) a woman speaks to his bobbling head and says, “Mixed-race babies always have that look.”

Photograph by Jeff Sharlet

Not Even My Own [private]

I thought they were wild but I’m told irises rarely are. Planted; invasive; European, mostly, or Asian. But there are natives, too. These, with their ribbed yellow tongues, resemble an iris called the wild flag, which grows from Nova Scotia to Sitka. How might it have come to this small valley? First a bulb, then a garden, then flowers, planted; now flowers, wild. Escapees or refugees, invaders or simply the left behind.


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No Republican Shall Inherit

Jared: “Now this was the mid seventies. I was on an airbase in Florida. We had to keep the fighter planes loaded because, you see, this was only twelve years after the missile crisis. We had to be ready. Who knew what the Russians were up to? We were geared up. We were ready to fight.”

A metaphor, maybe. A photo on their Tumblr page with a caption in yellow prose. Bruce: “We always knew—for 35 years—we always knew whatever we did, or whoever we were with, we knew where we’d end up. That’s my best friend. There is nothing on this planet I love more, and if someone jumps in the middle of us, we’ll cut their fucking throats, do you understand? We have guns. We’re Trannie Oakley, okay? We will shoot them.”

Photo by Rianna Pauline Starheim

Rainbow Weather in Kabul

In Afghanistan, kite string is run through crushed-glass powder before it is coiled. Kite strings bite. My instinct when I’m cut is to grab the string tighter. But I have to let go. I’d rather be up with the kites. Catching the wind with the helicopters, the mountains, the birds—warblers, crows, rosefinches, bluethroats, blackbirds, doves.

Photo by James Sprankle

Faith and Its Limits

1. Connor’s only two, but he’s big for his age. Healthy. Bumping and charging around Dr. Katie’s examination room like it’s play time. Terrific two. And he is healthy, except that he needs a new liver. Sooner rather than later. His blood t [...]

Alex Potter

Farhad

Ahlam, twenty-seven, was visiting Germany for a conference in the spring of 2015 when war broke out in Yemen, her home country. Her family urged her to stay, so she applied for asylum. “For me, it’s a new life,” she said. “This is what I really want. Most of us, we just came for a safe place, a place we can really do something that we can’t do in our countries—maybe because of the war, maybe because of society, maybe because we don’t have freedoms. I never felt freedom and I never knew what independence meant until I came to this country. As a woman in Yemen, we can’t do anything. Independence is for the men.”

Michael O. Snyder

We All Travel the Milky Way Together

The Pizza Deck in Yosemite National Park sells beer for $30 a pitcher—a rip off in almost any situation, and I candidly told the bartender as much. Back at the tent site, my wife, brother, sister, and her boyfriend packed their gear in preparation for the next day’s hike. This was, admittedly, an odd choice for a honeymoon. Rather than doze on a beach, I’d asked my siblings to join my wife and me on the John Muir Trail, one of the most remote and challenging sections of wilderness hiking in the US. Named for the father of our national parks system, the trail crosses only one road in its 215-mile course through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Muir called them his “Range of Light.”

Saint Coltrane

October 3, 2016

1. A painted portrait of Coltrane—robed, with halo—hangs on the wall. Reverend Marlee-I Mystic welcomes the congregation, many of whom are here for the first time, hoping to catch this San Francisco institution (forty-eight years in the Fillmo [...]

Photograph by Sarah Khatry

An Audience with Wirathu

August 10, 2016

“Don’t publish the article with any adjective I did not use. If you want to use an adjective, use ‘Myanmar nationalist.’”

“That’s how you want to be described?”

“Yes.” He chuckles. “Don’t use ‘radical’ or ‘brutal.’ ‘Burmese bin Laden.’”

Photograph by Maggie Shipstead

The Truths of Antarctica

June 16, 2016

1. No ship had ever been so far south. S 78°43.971’. The Russian research vessel turned Antarctic tourist ship Akademic Shokalskiy set a new record, though not by much: less than 100 feet. The Ross Ice Shelf is a floating platform of glacial i [...]

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