Archive for the ‘Come Outside’ Category

Come Outside: Notes on Contributors

February 28, 2007 4 comments

Ivy Alvarez (Ivy is here) is the author of Mortal. In 2006, she was awarded a grant by the Australia Council for the Arts to write poems for her second poetry manuscript. Her poems appear in journals and anthologies worldwide and online. Her previous contributions to qarrtsiluni are here and here.

Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi) is a student in the Aleph rabbinic program. Her most recent collection of poems is chaplainbook (laupe house press, 2006). The Tex-Mex food of her childhood, early music, and the television show Veronica Mars are a few of her favorite things. Rachel is one of qarrtsiluni‘s most faithful supporters, with seven previous contributions: here, here, here, here, here, here and here. She also co-edited the Opening in the Body theme.

K. Cohen writes,

There is nothing like a happy ending.

There is always something like a path.

Hineni . . .

This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Jeff Crouch is an internet artist living in Grand Prairie, Texas. His graphic work has appeared in numerous places on the internet (google “Jeff Crouch” to see where). For a series of links to Jeff’s work, see here. This is his first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Todd Davis teaches creative writing, environmental studies, and American literature at Penn State University—Altoona. His poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and have appeared in many journals and magazines, and he is the author of two books of poems, Ripe (Bottom Dog Press, 2002) and Some Heaven (Michigan State University Press, 2007). Todd loves to go out tracking in the snow, and after 3 and 1/2 years of tracking bobcats in Central Pennsylvania, was rewarded with his first bobcat sighting at the beginning of February. His poems in this edition of qarrtsiluni mark his first appearance in any online publication.

Catherine Ednie (louder) belongs to a community of local poets and writers in Stamford, Connecticut. She runs a wiki for the group at Her previous contributions to qarrtsiluni are here and here.

Karl Elder (homepage) has an eighth collection of verse, Gilgamesh at the Bellagio, forthcoming from The National Poetry Review Award Book Series. Among his honors are a Pushcart Prize, two appearances in The Best American Poetry, the Chad Walsh Award, the Lorine Niedecker Award, and the Lucien Stryk Award. For many years and since its inception, Elder has been associated with the magazine Seems — originally as a contributor, followed by poetry editor, and, since 1978, editor and publisher. His previous contributions to qarrtsiluni are here and here.

Camilla Engman‘s website is a manysplendored thing. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Susie Ghahremani (website) is an illustrator, musician and stuff maker who loves ice cream and finches. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design and recently moved to California. She has notecards, memo pads, stationary, and other fun things for sale at her online shoppe. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

After teaching in England for many years, Ian House taught in Eastern Europe. His collection Cutting the Quick (2005) is available from Two Rivers Press. He lives in Reading. This is his first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Jean (this too) describes herself as an unhappy Londoner, unhappy bureaucrat, happy translator, copy-editor, and writer of political reports and speeches. Her visual and verbal creativity got blocked when she was six or seven and miraculously reappeared some 45 years later thanks to blogging, a digital camera and the inspiration of artists and writers met online. Her previous contributions to qarrtsiluni are here and here.

Dick Jones (Patteran Pages), a drama teacher and musician, has been writing seriously for the past 20 years. His poems and short stories have been published in a wide range of magazines, both on- and offline, and he is currently preparing a selection of poetry for submission to publishers. His previous contributions to qaartsiluni are here, here, and here.

Ken Lamberton (homepage) says, “I divide my time between doing laundry, sitting on my porch staring at the desert around my home, and other distractions that take the place of writing, which is what I should be doing so that one day my wife can quit her job.” Ken’s book Wilderness and Razor Wire (Mercury House, 2000) won the John Burroughs Medal, and he recently received a Soros Justice Fellowship to help promote A Time of Grace: Thoughts on Nature, Family, and the Politics of Crime and Punishment, forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press this fall. “Outside Guevavi” is an excerpt from his current project, Santa Cruz: Stories of Life and Redemption on a Dead River. His previous contribution to qarrtsiluni is here.

Esther Morgan (homepage) was born in Worcestershire, UK. Her first collection, Beyond Calling Distance (Bloodaxe Books, 2001) won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize; her second, The Silence Living in Houses, was published by Bloodaxe in 2005. At the moment she is listening very hard for new poems which is perhaps why silence is a pre-occupying theme. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Ann Rapstoff‘s website describes her as an interdisciplinary arts practitioner who “explores ways of engagement, often experientially, unsettling known structures and shifting the proximity between artist, audience and or participants. Past work has included navigating and facilitating chance meetings in crowd situations including festival sites, creating small changes in the space. In negotiating particular situations and sites, she attempts to engage and facilitate further possible histories related to identity, myth, narrative and ritual.” This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Marja-Leena Rathje (eponymous blog) is a Finnish-Canadian artist and printmaker who lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her previous contributions to qarrtsiluni are here, here, and here.

Fiona Robyn is a writer living happily in the UK with her partner and cats, Fatty and Silver. She blogs at a small stone and creative living, and her homepage includes additional samples of her work. She is currently working on her second poetry collection and her third novel. Before guest-editing this edition, she contributed to qarrtsiluni here, here, here, here, and here.

Miles Storey says, “I design stuff for a living and take photos for fun.” He posts mostly digital photos, taken with a Canon 20d, on his photoblog, MUTE. This is his first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Adelle Stripe is a performance poet/fiction writer from Tadcaster, UK. Her work has appeared in Full Moon Empty Sports Bag, Laura Hird, 3:AM Magazine, Paris Bitter Hearts Pit, Rising Poetry, Scarecrow, and Savage Kick. She edits Straight From The Fridge and is a co founder of the Brutalist movement. She will one day release her secrets to the world in paperback under the banner “Things I Never Told Anyone.” Adelle also hopes to retire to the country and become the only female professional rat catcher in the north, sometime before her 35th birthday. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Susan Utting (homepage) has worked as a barmaid, florist’s assistant, yoga teacher, adult literacy tutor and in a psychology department. She now runs poetry workshops throughout the U.K. and teaches poetry at Reading and Oxford Universities. Publications include Something Small is Missing (Smith/Doorstop, 1999 — a Poetry Business prize winner), Striptease (Smith/Doorstop, 2001) and her latest collection, Houses Without Walls (Two Rivers Press, July 2006). This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Jared Wahlgren is a poet and student. He enjoys guitar and house music. His poetry has appeared in Flutter (January) and is forthcoming in Static Movement (March) and Watching the Wheels: A Blackbird (April). “Finger Lakes” was inspired by a friend he used to spend time with in Upstate New York where he studied liberal arts. This is his first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Loren Webster (In a Dark Time) is a retired high school English teacher living in Tacoma, Washington. He enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, photography, and birding, though he spends far too much time on his computer perfecting Photoshop skills and trying to write semi-articulate articles for his blog. This is his first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

Laura Wilkinson is a founding member of and writes fiction and non-fiction. She has only dipped her toes in the creative writing pool to date and she is making this the year she dives in the deep end. On the whole Laura favours short fiction though she is also developing a novel; it’s at the germination stage, in an egg box on the kitchen window ledge. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.

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Categories: Come Outside

Two poems

February 27, 2007 3 comments


bright ducks land
wings out onto watered mirrorglass
mercury flakes fall
as the wallpaper fades
year on year

a door is open in the house
the one thing that props the roof up
the fire smokes
exhales another breath

outside the snow
and this room already far away

speculum (SPEK-yoo-luhm) noun
1. A mirror used as a reflector in an optical instrument,
such as a telescope.
2. Speculum metal: any of various alloys of copper and
tin used in making mirrors.
3. An instrument for holding open a body cavity for
medical examination.
4. A bright patch of color on the wings of certain birds,
for example ducks.
[From Latin speculum (mirror), from specere (to look at), ultimately
from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is also the
root of such words as suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer),
espionage, despise, telescope, and spectacles.]


morning’s beauty has wrinkled
into cloud glower

snow shower

dark eyed
with the threat

of sharp stars
cold night

by Ivy Alvarez

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February 26, 2007 2 comments

Out behind the barn, along the dry gray boards of the barn, near the dry gold grasses of late August. Grasshoppers skitter in the weeds. She sits back there for hours, still and quiet, playing with grass stalks.

Five pennies are embedded in the cement floor of the barn entrance. She would like to pry them out but they will not come loose. The cement floor feels cool on her bare legs. Sitting on the cement marks her legs with fine pox. Gray cement dust gets on her clothes. She’s already dirty again.

Dust coats everything in the barn. The heat intensifies the smell of dust. She doesn’t explore. Normally she would explore. She knows there’s a scythe in there, a big old-fashioned hand scythe with a wooden handle. They use it to cut the golden grasses. There’s an old washing machine in there, with a mangle mounted on top. Your hair could get caught in the mangle and yanked right out of your head.

She looks out of the barn. The barn doorway frames the edge of the flower garden. Giddy sprays of gladiola, orange and yellow, start inside the frame and then shoot past it. The gravel driveway curves partly into the frame, then exits.

They’re all inside. Taking naps. Hanging up clothes. Folding clothes. Putting away clothes. Clearing up after food. Making more food. There’s a plate of sliced tomatoes at every meal. Someone is usually crying, starting to cry, or getting over crying. The others talk, but their talk doesn’t draw her. It has no shape and no weight. She doesn’t want to go inside. She doesn’t want to move. The door frame holds her.

She wants to get exactly into the space of the door frame, the space that’s not the barn, the space that’s not the gladiola garden. If she gets there, she can disappear. None of it will matter. The untouched dust. The embedded pennies. The hard eyes. The no words.

by Catherine Ednie of louder

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Two images

February 25, 2007 2 comments
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Finger Lakes

February 23, 2007 2 comments

There is a row
of row houses—

a boat, out at
the cabin.

and micro brews.

Out on the lake,
the seaweed

covers the floor
for ten feet.

The glaciers
carving sand.

Lake Seneca
is in my heart.

by Jared Wahlgren

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Rip Van Winkle

February 22, 2007 2 comments
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The burial plot of dead flowers

February 21, 2007 2 comments

I stopped at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes after passing it twice. The stations of the cross are built into the hill. The whole place is full of rough wooden prie-dieus. The large number of votives flickering heated up the inside of the stone and cement grotto and made it seem alive. The quantities of hideous statuary winked and mocked me. No faith, no faith, they said. I said Ugly, ugly, in return. Mary had a garden-ful of beautiful well-watered fresh bouquets at her feet, including a dozen red roses in a glass vase. Over in the woods there was the burial plot of the dead flowers. This moved me. Also, one remarkable hydrangea bloom [in the grotto], all dusky, green, mottled with faint purple and blue. I touched it. It was real. I didn’t want to light a candle, although I thought about it—to what? to the goddess? to the new? to the future? No faith, no faith. I left there.

by Catherine Ednie of louder

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Outside Guevavi

February 20, 2007 5 comments

An occasional car Dopplers along South River Road, which contours the Santa Cruz River on our left. Melissa, my youngest daughter who has joined me today, suggests that we duck and hide at the sound of tires on the road. I know what she means; I feel it also. We’re too exposed.

We’re a few miles from our border with Mexico where the Santa Cruz River flows north into Arizona. Mount Benedict wrestles with the western skyline, its buried pediments squeezing the aquifer beneath us enough to bring water above ground in springs and surface flow—but not recently. Except for the occasional floods, water hasn’t flowed here regularly since 1993. Where the river channel swings wide in its sandy course along some low bluffs, laying up alluvial sediments in terrace after terrace, I imagine clustered pyramids of anemic cornstalks instead of the persistent seep willow and cocklebur. This could be the place.

To reach the bluff, Melissa and I climb a granite outcrop, gaining footholds in a rough seam that could once have been the runnel of a spring. We slip under a barbed-wire fence marked “US Boundary NPS.” Melissa, noticing other signs on the fence, turns her sharp blue eyes on me and says, “We’re trespassing. There’s nothing we can do here that would be legal.” I, too, am bothered by the plethora of “posted” signs. I recall news items about gun-toting vigilante ranchers, and I’ve seen Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security vehicles, both marked and unmarked, cruising these backroads on the lookout for people on foot. But I keep going.

At the top of the outcrop, I know this is the place. At my feet, a single round socket in the rock articulates a fist of loose stone—evidence of the river farmers. It’s a 300-year-old bedrock mortero, a grinding hole for corn.

I scan the high desert grassland spread out beneath the gunmetal Santa Rita Mountains in the north. Dwarf mesquite rise to eye level and stop, releasing my view—and then I see them, chocolate walls poking up from the thin, crooked trees, the jaundiced San Cayetano Mountains behind them. We walk through what once was Father Garrucho’s entry into his courtyard, even now a clear path on the ground, and turn right toward the ruins, climbing a slope of earth between two five-foot walls to enter the church’s nave. There’s not much here; the sun is still hot on my neck. These few adobe walls, bleeding back into the dirt from which they came, are all that remains of Arizona’s first mission.

In 1701, Father Eusebio Kino established the Mission San Gabriel de Guevavi at an Indian village of Guevavi (from an O’odham word, gi-vavhia, which means “big spring”). The tall, dark-skinned Jesuit with the penetrating eyes and pronounced brow was keeping a promise he had made to these people during his earlier visit in January of 1691 when he first stepped into what is now Arizona. But it wasn’t until the mid 1700s under the oversight of the Sardinian Father Joseph Garrucho that the church rose out of the baked ground to encompass an area about the size of a baseball diamond. The plans called for a rectangular church, fifteen by fifty feet, with three-foot thick walls of sun-dried adobe, plastered with mud, whitewashed, and then painted with colorful decorations on the inside. Standing high on this mesa, above an open courtyard and the many rooms—a school, kitchen, refectory among them—that hugged a square of perimeter walls, the church would have been an impressive sight for dozens of miles in all directions. And the visibility worked both ways. Off the southeast corner of the church’s narthex, a circular tower, unusual for missions at this time, would have given sentries a perch to watch for approaching Apache raiders.

We stand among three leftover adobe walls, the highest only about eight feet tall, all of them crumbling and chocked with rocks. A loose pile of horse droppings rests where an altar once held silver chalices. I remember hearing about archaeologists finding chicken bones and peach pits in the walls and how they were made by men and women’s hands, some not so willing or careful. I think about how the mission must have appeared two hundred and fifty years ago. Its plastered walls shimmering in the heat rising off this corrugated landscape. Arizona’s first White Dove of the Desert. Guevavi would have inspired more than native eyes.

I tell Melissa that we are standing over the bones of a man who was present as history swung on its hinges for this region: Juan Tomás de Belderrain, the first captain of the Spanish presidio at nearby Tubac and Arizona’s first European settlement, who was buried here about 1760. She lays her hand on a mission wall that has stood in our desert for hundreds of years, and I think about how these same young hands are touching hands with the ancients. History collects in the lifelines of her palms like dust.

“Why do we find it supremely pertinent,” asks Annie Dillard, “during any moment of any century on earth, which among us is topside? Why do we concern ourselves over which side of the membrane of soil our feet poke?” We may walk on this earth one layer at a time, but there are places where all the layers rise to the surface and we share the same elements with those long dead and with those yet to come. This desert of exposed millennia, of rocks and river terraces in mid-pause before being swept to the sea, takes me outside myself, reminding me that we are only for the time being.

by Ken Lamberton

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February 19, 2007 1 comment


A twig snaps,
a leaf
two take
one breath.


Dawn hasn’t come,
but while we wait
the air wakes and rains to earth;
night and day linger in a dream of muffled light
then tenderly divide.

Now you see.
Nothing breaks.

by K. Cohen

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The Long Mile Home

February 16, 2007 3 comments

24 hours. One day. One lifetime.

The walls are grubby, in desperate need of redecoration, faded to a bland grey yellow. Outside the late autumnal sun struggles to break through the windows, encased as they are in city grime. Sunbeams tiptoe round the outskirts of the ward lifting dullness like a light fingered thief. Hers is a window corner but this delicate radiance cannot touch her. She hasn’t pulled up the blind. She knows she must face it soon, prosaic city life.

Her friends said: “Life will never be the same again.” How true.

It is 8.30 am and the doctor has finished his round. Dismissing professional advice she discharges herself and leaves her overnight bag under the bed, snuggling down with dirt and disease. The lobby is quiet; a security guard nods at her. She shuffles towards the automatic doors and is assaulted by a blast of hot air. It blows her dishevelled hair upwards and slaps her shiny face with its man-made warmth. She lunges forward and a cold breeze whips her cheeks, unstockinged knees and forearms. An insignificant flurry of wind, a natural force, kisses her body and wakes her from her pain-induced slumber. Downy hair stands to attention and she realises with sadness and shame that she can still feel.

She’s alive.

It takes her by surprise, this feeling. The sun has set and risen only once since she staggered into the hospital, eyes glazed and screaming. She walks, head down, towards the pavement, off NHS property. The ground is spongy beneath her, trampoline-like. She is weightless, moon-walking her way to back to reality.

Outside the breeze blocks, central heating, plastic bed covers and acrylic curtains, she is once again a sentient being. Her battered, aching body is pulsating with life. She swears she can feel it healing. Denmark Hill lies before her, the small station in the middle distance, the road, damp black with residual dew and fog, the slow moving cars, the buses groaning as they struggle up the rise. Beige flats and red brick houses.

Her mouth still tastes of metal.

There is no sign of a cab amongst the swarm of morning commuters. Suzette waits a while, peering down the hill, searching for the amber glow of the ‘For Hire’ sign. If she squints, the cars look like beetles, jostling towards an unseen treasure, a pile of dung perhaps or rotting, leftover food. Then she remembers. She has no money, no identification, nothing. She has the clothes she wears and what should have been. Her purse sits in the side pocket of her bag and she will not re-enter the grey tower. Herne Hill and a flat that until now she would have called home is only a mile away.

“I will walk,” she resolves.

Clenching her teeth Suzette turns right and faces the hill head on. She is heading south on the eastern, shady side of the street. She will not cross over to the light and warmth. The paving stones are cracked. Moss and other plant life grow randomly in the grooves between the slabs. She marvels at nature’s instinct to survive.

Turreted Victorian houses line the route, sentries standing to attention, marking her path. Over the brow of the hill she catches a glimpse of the park, the wet grass winking at her in the sunlight. In her mind’s eye she sees the lido, the walled garden and the children’s playground. Like a butterfly round buddlia she hovers over the playground. Iron tubes in primary colours curling their way into children’s hearts. Swings creaking to and fro, shrieks of laughter, obstinate rages, querulous prattling, chasing games and babble deafen her. She can smell the children, pungent little creatures, all sugar and sticky farts. She wants to hug them tight.

Gloomier shadows still creep up on her as she approaches the railway bridge, dark and low and dirty, pigeons hiding in the eaves, chattering to each other, cooing, carelessly spilling their waste.

A flower stall trickles onto the pavement. Silver buckets of white lilies, carnations, roses and chrysanthemums illuminate the scene like a lone peacock in a sea of hens. Red knuckles and chapped fingers huddle round a polystyrene cup of tea the colour of wet sand. Its steam dances towards the sky. The flower seller’s brittle, yellowed nails are filthy. His fingers are engrained with soil; it is part of him, just as oil is elemental to a mechanic’s hands, regardless of how much Swarfegar he uses at the end of each day. He isn’t old, 50 maybe, but he is a man who has worked outside most of his life. His skin is parched, broken veins thread their way across his cheeks, open pores roam freely and a dew drop of colourless snot dangles at the end of his nose.

He is frozen, but living and breathing.

The scent of the lilies burns the inside of Suzette’s nose as she moves slowly by. She inhales deeply, taking in their perfume, drawing the rich powdery scent up into her brain. She feels dizzy, intoxicated by the aroma and then quite sick. She tries to quicken her pace to escape the pungent fumes but her legs are granite and the ground cut glass. Stones slice through the soles of her suede boots, shards of tarmac are ripping her feet. Senses intact, she is still alive. The hum of the traffic turns from white noise to a scarlet howl, scorching her eardrums.

Wind tears sting her eyes and through the cacophony of noise she hears a tiny mewling. In a tower, falling away from the light, the stars are gathering, huddling together, glittering, obscuring her vision. She is going to faint.

The earth should feel hard against her vulnerable flesh but it is a bed of feathers, a lake of down, caressing her bruised body, stroking her from the inside out and she weeps for the love of it. Suzette wants to stay here forever, in this tender embrace.

“Are you all right love?”

It is the flower seller, looking concerned and kind. Like a father, or a mother. She cannot open her eyes for she knows that if she does the true tears will come and may never stop. She clutches the towelling babysuit against her empty, bleeding womb. She feels its softness and her despair.

by Laura Wilkinson, editor of

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