We were thrilled to have the opportunity to edit an issue of qarrtsiluni. It was both challenging, in terms of volume and time, and highly rewarding.
Our hope was to focus on and highlight health — both the radiant, full-bodied, energetic variety, and the various ways health is impaired or depleted. We struggled to balance the issue, hoping to equally include pieces that celebrate the joy we experience in health and that explore the grief in our disease and dying. We were continually surprised at how difficult this was, as the majority of submissions we received focused on ill health.
We wondered why the focus seemed more on our dis-ease than on our vibrancy. Is it that we use writing to, as Gregory Orr says, “(sing) the pain back into the wound?”
Gregg Levoy, in his book Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, says that writing is really only the mode of transport. “The true calling is whatever we hope to draw to us through our art, what we want it to bring to us.” Perhaps all this writing about our dis-ease is meant to bring wholeness to us.
On the other hand, the visual art we received was much more focused on the positive aspects of health. There were many photographs, paintings, and mixed-media pieces full of harmony and joy.
We have no answers, only more questions. Art in all its forms holds much mystery.
We thank all of you who submitted. It was an honor and a pleasure to be allowed into your aching hearts, your quirky minds, and your love of life and this Earth.
For bios of Susan and Kelly, see the Call for Submissions post.
On the Scree by David Trame
The Ground Left Me by Brent Goodman
In the Middle of the Night by Pat Daneman
Mt. Nebo, Arkansas, late August by Brent Fisk
At the Hour of Your Death by Karen Stromberg
Passing by Richard Jordan
Flight by Robin Chapman
Aliens Among the Brittle Stars by Katherine Durham Oldmixon
Scales by Ron Czerwien
Devour by Arlene Ang
Still Life by Dick Jones
Some Beauty Needs a Dimness by Diane Wakoski
Bloom by Tori Ellison
An Inside View of the Patient by Delbert R. Gardner
Girls on the Slide by Sarah Busse
Revelation by Harriet Brown
Peaked by Lisa Alden
Sharps (remix) by Stu Hatton
Panic by Wendy Vardaman
Case Study by Heather Reid
Loving My Daughter in the Mountains by Marjorie Saiser
Which came first, health or feeling good? by Steve Wing
What is Health? by Monica Raymond
What the Horoscope Says by Rodney Wood
Homeopathy for the Nation by Joseph Harker
On Suzanne by Holly Anderson
I Should Mention Love by Brent Goodman
Visions of a Healthy Planet by James Brush
The Old Man and the Kayak by Steve Meador
Lithia Springs by Steve Meador
there by Peter Schwartz
In/organic Transmissions by Patricia McInroy
Materia Medica by Heidi Hart
La Virgen de la Candelaria by Lisken Van Pelt Dus
Healing Buddha by Katherine Durham Oldmixon
Gloriosa by Heidi Hart
Sarcoma by Marilyn L. Taylor
The Dog as Healer, the Snake as Cure by Jeffery Beam
Body by Rachel Barenblat
Between by Thomas Ferrella
Hospital at Night by Una Nichols Hynum
After James Tate by Martha Deed
Advice from the Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey
Psych Ward by Dorianne Laux
Diogenes Syndrome by Maureen Jivani
Here’s To My Legs by Marjorie Saiser
Thick Socks by Sara Parrell
Salamba Sirsasana 1 — Headstand by Robbi Nester
Breathing by Brent Goodman
Visiting the Burn Unit by Lisken Van Pelt Dus
Systems by Colleen Coyne
Ice Babies II by Aine Scannell
Still, Life by Catherine Jagoe
Jitters by Robin Chapman
Relics by Sherry Chandler
Cold Blood by Lynnel Jones
Prairie Potholes by Sara Parrell
Recovery by Brent Fisk
Transport by Monica Raymond
X-Dress by Tori Ellison
Medicine Poem for Holly by Alison Townsend
Ash by Lisken Van Pelt Dus
The Swing by Richard Jordan
Perspectives on the Geographical Cure by Dan Lear
Hole in Me by Aine Scannell
Gloves & Dark Glasses by Diane Wakoski
The Breath of Life by Jeff Klooger
Beluga Spiral by Joy Harjo
Psalm by Catherine Jagoe
I pause in the airport parking ramp alive
with the avid conversations of sparrows
celebrating the ordinary.
They make this half-deserted hangar
musical as a cathedral, open to the air,
full of light and shadows, cool spaces.
I see our house when it was a great skeleton
of yellow wood, the roof ribs of whale,
green light of summer in the rafters.
A wasps’ nest falls from the heft
of the silver maple. I hold
this fine grey paper from the sky.
I sing and sometimes sound fills
my mouth and throbs there, my throat
an instrument, my ribs a soundboard.
I swim. I keep my head low
in the water, thinking of seals’
breath, swivel, drive, flip, glide.
I endure the clamor of children,
ground down smooth by it like shingle
clattered and worn on the strand.
I plant wormwood, sage.
I snap asparagus spears,
split the wood from the green.
The mock orange that I tried to kill
is drenched in blossom, tipsy.
Again, its scent undoes me.
Catherine Jagoe is a poet and translator. Poems from her chapbook Casting Off (Parallel Press, 2007) have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Poetry Daily. Her translations include two novels, one from Spain, That Bringas Woman (Everyman, 1996) and one from Argentina, My Name Is Light (Bloomsbury, 2003). She recently finished translating a memoir about the Arctic from Catalan into English.
by Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo (website) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation. Her seven books of poetry, which include such titles as How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses, have garnered many awards. Her latest publication is a young adult/coming of age book, For A Girl Becoming. She performs nationally and internationally with her band, the Arrow Dynamics, and has released four CDs of original music. Winding Through the Milky Way won her a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009.
by Jeff Klooger
If life is this easy, why haven’t we lived
until now? With each breath
the body expands, and we
expand with it, from the untouchable
core of our unchanging self
to unreachable limits
The rhythm is so simple
a child could learn it. It sings to us
and we sing back, a tune of air,
expelling strife and sorrow, inhaling
peace and light.
If tears come, they are a blessing,
a farewell to demons we once loved
but now no longer care for.
Laughter, too, may surprise us, announcing
joy we did not know we had.
In silence, we find an end to searching.
At home in the moment,
we know that here and now
nothing is missing, everything
is just as it is.
If we are not
what we expected to be
we are at last
even for ourselves.
Jeff Klooger’s poetry has been published in his native Australia and internationally. Recently his work has appeared in Eureka Street, The Daedalus Review, TEXT, Numinous, The Argotist Online, The Stinging Fly, Harvest, dotdotdash, and Otoliths. His other interests are music and philosophy. His book on the ideas of the Greek-French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis was published in 2009.
How did a great Red-tailed Hawk
come to lie — stiff and dry —
on the shoulder of
Her wings for dance fans
from “The Dead By the Side of the Road,” by Gary Snyder
I saw the doe
placed so carefully, fanned out,
the embankment scrolling upwards,
in a pose she could not have assumed that way.
Silk-scarf ivory, sere limned against winter grass,
eyes still glossy as polished jasper, her delicate hoof extended like
a lady’s ungloved hand, she must have danced
across Jolly Road, and some driver-poet,
like Bill Stafford, got out
and puzzled about her fate/ Isadora
Duncan, leaping in the
with her Grecian chorus of young
boys, sandaled Aphrodite of Kopanos Hill —
she might have been there, watching in a toga-d pose,
but I, wearing dark glasses and passing by
the next day, was presented only
with a dead deer, not the dancer she
might have been.
What gloves do we wear when removing a
fallen deer to the verge
of the road? Ivory, sere,
silk or suede?
Could it be
that they are the gloves of invisibility that wrap
our dancing feet,
our hooves splayed out
as if they were Isadora never-caught in the scarf
of her longing, only leaping?
Isadora Duncan captured 20th century imagination with her innovative dancing that featured a return to Classical Greek forms. She helped set a healthy fashion for artists to go “natural,” wearing sandals as part of that gesture, and of course she died famously, riding in an open car, her long scarf trailing in the wind, only to get caught in the wheels of the auto to strangle her.
“Bill Stafford”: See William Stafford’s poem, “Travelling Through The Dark.”
Diane Wakoski’s latest book, The Diamond Dog, is now available from Anhinga Press (see the review in the Christian Science Monitor). She is the author of more than twenty collections of poems and continues to teach at Michigan State University as a University Distinguished Professor.
Silkscreen and collagraph
30 x 30 cm or 12 x 12 inches
Aine Scannell (first name pronounced Oy N yah) is an Irish fine artist printmaker residing in Scotland. Her art work is generally located in the realm of the personal with imagined hybrids and ciphers and incorporating symbolic references. Her work has been widely exhibited in the UK and internationally, and was recently featured in the publication Printmaking at the Edge by Richard Noyce. Visit her website and blog.
by Dan Lear
I stood that morning with my back to the Atlantic
feeling tall. My shoes had been in six oceans.
My shadow etched a line across America.
By West Virginia I was smaller. Above straight
walls of rock the sky was a circle
I held in my arms.
In Kansas I saw the overpass twelve miles
before I reached it. At 80 mph
I stood still and disappeared.
I swelled and burst in the desert of New
Mexico. The dry air
sucked me brittle, a seedhusk losing seed.
By Needles I was too thin to matter
when the car broke down. I walked back to town
afraid no one could see me.
Finally, Monterey and my chest to the Pacific,
expanded like an eclipse.
At noon the sailfish lept into dark.
I was surprised to find you, still in me,
the same size you were when you left.
Dan Lear writes in St. Louis, or wherever else he happens to be.
Ramsdell scales the ancient ash behind
the woodshed, takes a swig of Jack then flings
the bottle high. An hour ago he watched
a blood sun rise through cobwebbed panes
by his mother’s childhood bed, his arm gone numb
from supporting her neck all night as she strained to catch
the banter of barn owls and coyotes.
He thought it would be easy, a token visit
to the vacant family farm then back;
but in St. Joseph’s his mother’s eyes had misted
as she told of an August day when she was
almost twelve, of how she pushed her younger
cousin higher and higher on a swing,
and how her cousin stretched small toes to split
a thunderhead. So Ramsdell teeters now,
reaching for a sturdy limb to hold
a rope, a tire, skin and bones,
and a failing woman’s final chance
to harness wind and sweep the earth away.
Richard Jordan is a PhD mathematician who works as a researcher at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. His poetry has appeared most recently in The Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, Redivider, Two Review, and on the Verse Daily website.
Forty feet up the ash tree,
branches begin to splay from the trunk
curving off toward light of their own.
One forms an almost perfect arch
and on its crest — an apple,
green and slightly shriveled, but intact.
It’s worthy of Magritte, no apple tree
in sight. We’re lunching on the deck
with my stepson who’s just lost his mother
when we notice it: apple as apparition.
Apple as praise for possibility, apple
as balance in abandonment. It’s Dan
who sees the squirrel retrieve it, later.
The fruit’s as big as the animal’s head,
but he leaps with it across chasms,
without hesitation, as if the air were substance.
Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published this year by Pudding House Press.