We don’t remember when we first talked about guest editing an issue of qarrtsiluni — we guess it must have been back in the spring of last year. We threw around a whole bunch of ideas before settling on Worship as the theme, and it feels like we have lived closely with it since then.
We do have a sense that everyone is involved in some act of worship, although we don’t always use that word to describe those acts. We were curious to see what people made of the theme.
We expected more people to come from a secular position than did in the end, or perhaps we are reading something spiritual into the many poems we got in praise of small things and in praise of the natural world. We did glory in nature in this issue. Many of the poems had a sense of reaching beyond nature to something more ineffable, whatever that might be.
We particularly enjoyed the many pieces of work that took something worldly and showed us something sacred about them.
The standard of submissions was overwhelming high, and the number of submissions were high as well. Right from the start we recognised how subjective a process editing is, and we also recognised that not everything that was good was going to make it into the issue (unless we wanted to take a whole year’s worth of posts).
Looking back on how we did choose the pieces in the issue, we can see that we were looking for something which brought form and spirit together. Some of the writing we received was beautifully crafted but felt in some way hollow. Some of the poems were full of heart, but clumsily executed. (There weren’t many of these, as it happens.) We were looking for writing that was both full of something and beautifully written. We think the writing and the images included in the issue do just this.
As well as the written word and the striking images, we also included one of each of another form, and we want to give them a special mention here. The first is James Brush’s video poem “While Sitting in Church.” The combination of words images and sound lifted the poem to something greater than just words on the page. The second is “The Key of Joy,” a piece of music by Caitlin M. Daphtary (music), Zackary Sholem Berger (lyrics), and Rachel Dudley (vocals) that we were very pleased to feature.
We’re really happy with the final issue. It’s also been wonderful to live with the poems these last few months, to have them breathed into life by the readings that each poet (and in one case, Dave) gave. Thank you so much.
For bios of Kaspa and Fiona, see the call for submissions.
by Gordon Smith
Gordon L. Smith is a landscape photographer and poetry lover in southwest Utah. He writes, “Religious terms are often used throughout nature to describe nature’s effect on man. Any visit to Woton’s Throne in the Grand Canyon will be a sublime experience.”
by Kate Falvey
Right now, O raging Carmelite, I have
an interior shack some middle where
outposted in primeval pine and poplar.
And though I am properly joyful when
the sun slants its sunny resurrection,
I am irked, confessedly, with dust and
duty. A broom in a corner, benign,
no, positively simpering: task, task,
and splendid beatitudes, balled and caked,
creep mossily through the planks, waiting for
their thanks. A chunky mug and spoon need holy
rinsing, my single sheet arrests me with
its bid to air the bedding and the tracks
of sylvan creatures, snuffling abrasively
into my lonely stash of winter grain,
eek a cranky knee-jerk pity, half-feigned
and insufficient, charity annoyed
into remembrance of resilience, though
my predilection would be not to share.
I am aware that meanness will not do.
A chastening fling of my breakfast to
the starving starlings and the porcupines
whets my appetite for mercy and I
feast again on humble pie and crow. So
braced, robustly stuffed with an airy fibrous
faith, I chant a favorite paternostic
plea for a modicum of sense and grace.
And I fully expect — though faith is just
a filler and my contrition grumbling
and suspect — consolation, radical
redress, emolument, direction,
sympathy, a link, the wise old consort
of my will to consecrate my listless
blood and rouse me to ascendancy or
leastways to a fair goodwill, unornery
composure and exuberant completion.
Work waits neutrally and patiently but
I cannot endure it. Today, I swear,
that gruff responsibility and service —
peeling the pudgy cobwebs from the jambs,
rejoicing in the loosening of grimy
nimbus from sainted sill, sorrowing,
but scrubbing all the while with fearful gusto —
is not the thing, is not enough to tide
me into suppliance again. I’ve had it
with belief in lowly ritual, loaves
bloating with my need to savor more than
commonplace distentions, spills and simple
clutter confiding in the pressure of
my rags and busy hands, that, indeed, god’s
face is in the stupid trusty suds, that
dimensional, satisfying light wells
regally in the quiet spaces made
by all this mortifying movement, that
the business of life pulses in thrifty
obligation to retain itself, unwasting,
in exchange for nothing, not even a
blasted, circumambient, or willy nilly
faith. Not even for a failure to receive
a sacred mop and bucket when they’re lent.
Kate Falvey’s work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals. She’s on the editorial board of the Bellevue Literary Review and is editor-in-chief of 2 Bridges Review, a new magazine published through City Tech/CUNY where she teaches.
Between interstices of sunlight through the cross
beams, the silent-stricken trees: a gallows for a swing
I was so young—
my Sunday shoes
my pretty dress really shadows leaning in
to see the algae silky green in the bucket made of tin
Mud and scum of damselflies
Arc of your forbearance bent so far, the shape enjoined
the question mark. Enjoined
to the nail driven through
if it was
forgiveness. We gambled we were gods
The rise and fall of rivers at our feet. Parting
these as seas, piercing flesh
of the skin. Pearls
tumbled. A sac of roe for our betrayal
A rosary of shimmer
Did I dream the barbels quivered?
Did I pull from air the wine in clusters? Eat
of this, one grape. Another
Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her work has appeared in Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, the Cortland Review, The Evansville Review and the Hollins Critic, among others, and on WYPR’s “The Signal.” Awards include the Washington Square Review, James Still and Thomas Merton poetry prizes. She is senior editor for The Baltimore Review.
by Richard Wile
In faded flannel shirt and frayed cargo pants,
the man curls against the Weeks Footbridge
catching the sun like a bedraggled cat.
He stands occasionally, stretches, circles,
before sinking again onto a stained sleeping bag,
while I with $10 cigar look past him
at joggers seeking endorphin blessings,
couples reverently strolling hand in hand,
parents rejoicing in their children,
and twelve ducks meditating on the river.
Above us, Harvard’s golden cathedral domes
glow in wind-driven clouds.
This morning, our priest lit a bonfire, and declared Lent over.
I held my candle, sang “Hail Thee, Festival Day”
“Now the Green Blade Riseth,” “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,”
prayed to childhood’s Casper-the-Friendly Deity,
and walked to the Charles Hotel for bacon,
eggs, hash browns, croissants, and coffee.
A black cumulus settles like a boulder
over the sun. Wind pounds wet nails into skin.
Runners and families scud away
like the ghosts of those I’ve loved and lost.
The river churns and ducks bow their heads.
My cigar’s a cold turd. I turtle into my jacket.
The man by the Weeks Footbridge
entombs himself in the mummy bag.
Earlier, I proclaimed, “The Lord is risen indeed!”
but like the women in Mark’s Gospel
who fled the tomb in terror,
I’m afraid to believe it, really,
for fear of resurrection’s undermining
my understanding of the world, my security,
even the security of an emptiness
I carry like a cross.
Meanwhile, the cloud is rolled away,
the wind shifts to the south,
and the man by the bridge rises.
From his tattered trousers, he takes bread,
breaks it, and casts it on the water.
One by one, the ducks come forth
to share his Eucharist.
Richard Wile has published essays in numerous magazines and journals, most recently in the online magazine Solstice. He received his MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Creative Writing Program.
Lois P. Jones’s poetry and photographs have been published in American Poetry Journal, Raven Chronicles, qarrtsiluni, and other print and on-line journals in the U.S. and abroad. Since 2008 she has hosted KPFK’s long-running radio series in Los Angeles, Poet’s Cafe (90.7 FM Pacifica Radio). Lois co-produces Moonday West and is a co-host of Moonday’s east side poetry reading at Flintridge Books. She is the Poetry Editor of Kyoto Journal and a 2009/2010 Pushcart Nominee as well as a 2010/2011 nominee for Best New Poets. In 2010 her poem “Ouija” was selected as Poem of the Year by judge Dana Goodyear.
after Kelli Russell Agodon
I kneel to anything these days
stop short of calling it prayer.
In cotton robes I chase fallen grapes
beneath a supermarket altar
of Vidalia onions,
place papery skins on my tongue,
choke on dusty absolution.
At the foot of the bed
(raft of abstinence)
I tuck twenty-count cotton sheets
as far beneath the mattress as they will go,
clasp my hands beneath its weight
thank the god of coil and spring-air
that it is not a king or queen
but a full—
like a sinner’s prayer
lacking real weight.
In the back seat of a car
tree trunks and branches form a sort of confessional.
take in my hands
your last hope.
I am a penitent past curfew
siphoning the last drops
of something like forgiveness.
Drink. This is what you have shed for me (not many).
That it is not grape juice
makes it all the more sweeter.
Jill Crammond is a poet, artist and teacher funding her poetry passion by teaching children’s art and writing classes throughout New York State’s Capital Region. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Fire on Her Tongue (Two Sylvias Press), Classifieds: An Anthology of Prose Poems, Weave and others.
Can you read meaning to my poetry
that father standing beside me cannot?
Father ghost writes, he runs his finger
on the scroll — write of the bees and flowers
in the temple garden he says,
of the cowherd girls who dip their fingers in butter,
write of the cloud hued Krishna… his sentence breaks off…
of the Lotus Eyed One with conch and shell;
pantomiming he blows the conch, looking ludicrous
at that early hour as ruby morning spills the sky.
He is your dark lover he says
eyes burning with passion, words I have heard
since childhood, made me fantasize even as a girl of six.
Father writes poetry too, simple straightforward stuff
meter pruned like the oleander bush in the garden,
no sparse and stark lines like other hymnists
who tease with their obscurity, he disapproves their style.
Write like me he implores: listen to the koel on the kadamba tree,
write of the sapphire throated peacock, moisture laden clouds —
write earthy poetry, he is happy with the terminology.
I struggle, I need to hallucinate to write of kisses stolen
on the banks of the dark Yamuna.
Seek him. I am mixed-up — (I am also sleepy,
writing exercises are always kept to morning and how cold it is!)
how should I worship: take vow, fast,
abstain from milk and ghee, no silk robes, no finery?
Immerse in him. How does his tongue taste?
How sweet is his breath?
In doubt, frustration, as I wrestle
with God, with father,
in aborted efforts, scored off lines,
in unwritten poetry lay my prayer to the Lord.
(For the ninth century Tamil saint poets Periyalvar and Aandaal)
Uma Gowrishankar is a writer and artist. She blogs at umagowrishankar.wordpress.com/.
by Nancy Scott
Nancy Scott (website) is the managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey. She is also the author of four books of poetry. Recently, she began a foray into the art world by creating and exhibiting her collages in public venues and online.