Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Extra place set at your mind’s table

like Ezekiel’s: empty glass, clean spoon.

Hands that never pointed out the moon,

laid the baby in the Christmas stable,

dried dishes. Voice that doesn’t call

downstairs that he or she will be there

soon. In steam behind a bathroom door,

no one puts on makeup, leaves a towel

for you to find. No hairdryer.

No C in French. No midnight curfew,

no slamming door, no not“speaking“to.

When was it you began to hear

silence? They don’t tell you

about that voice, clear, insistent, steady

as a heartbeat, asking, How weren’t you ready?

”Sally Thomas


Blue renderings pencil“in the day.

In angles and geometries the tide comes in, the building does not sway.

The physician and the poet begin an essay

on the heart: electricity, Passion play,

resurrection“jolts and horology’s decay

of chimes and ticks: love’s broken sway

of faulty pointing hands. Form evokes: spine on X“ray

haloed silver, white, and gray; pathways soothsay

bee to savage sun“tilted flower. Papier“maché

and marble palaces, lit in gold and paper lanterns: in résumé

the body’s endgame (star“chaosed birth to doomsday),

writ in blood, dug in clay.

”Valerie Wohlfeld

All I Fear

All I fear,

Lord, on this planet teeming, wild,

Are the death of my child

And faithlessness to You.

The one would pull the other in its wake

As surely as earth’s spin each day our light must take

Or so I fear.

Would it?

I beg you, don’t bring me to a test of love

I can’t pass. If boundless grief should move

The father who survives his child to hate You,

My bond with him is stark and raw.

When tender flesh of his flesh slips too early into universal maw,

How does raging Lear bear it?

In losing her Ilose You.

Let me not lose her.

When Idie let her remember

Her father’s antique faith in You.

Let her somber heart review the desolate fragility of life.

Let her mock the adiaphora of strife,

And shed warm tears of thanks to You.

”Hal Riedl

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift