Pipe dreams, they’re called, leading to nowhere,
steps off a parapet, a leap into the chasm,
that trill in the chest
that pause before one silent lift.
Rushing temples burn a heart,
rush of a city, wind against skin,
a place you had forgotten until now.
Pressed against invisible threads the clouds hiss,
don’t go too high. Scents of pine and laurel rise
from humus beds, sending soft, beguiling
messages of comfort —
an urge to burrow competes
with a cirrus-streaked bowl of sky.
Moisture glistens against panes,
scratching branches etch gaunt wraiths of the past.
They coax you down from the stratosphere
to ring the sentries, shatter glass,
wrestle slights, travel
into a channel riddled with crevices,
a game of blind man’s bluff into depths
charted or unknown.
A contest that wills you to expose roots
lost under melted glaciers,
entwined in the hulls of shipwrecks
where liquid dreams turn on a dime.
Relish worlds deep and salty, blur the line
between breathing underwater and taking flight.
We started this work with a desire to create and collaborate together, but no clear idea of where and how exactly to start. Our intent was always to have fun, and to not worry about the finished project. As long as we were poeming and creating, we didn’t care (too much) what the finished product looked and sounded like. Deb was interested in learning about the video pieces Christine had been doing and that seemed a good jumping-off point. Christine edited some film clips she had and Deb free-wrote for five minutes in response to the images, not knowing what Christine had in mind.
Deb took the free-write, developed a first line and Christine followed. Alternate lines created a 16-line poem, of approximately 16 beats per line, initially broken into 2 stanzas.
Christine took the first revision (with Deb’s heartfelt gratitude) and broke the lines, reshaping the poem into what is presented today. A few minor word changes were made here and there but the language of the poem is nearly identical to where it started from.
We both agreed that one part of the video didn’t fit the poem and so it was cut (with a promise from Christine that it will reappear some time in the future as part of a different work). Deb sent Christine a link to her Flickr page with a number of sky images that Christine could work in if they fit. Then the hardest part (as far as Deb was concerned): did the read poem match the length of the video? Deb recorded the poem in 2 parts and Christine mixed the recording, the images and added background music. (Deb is going to learn how to do this too, she swears.)
Christine and Deb communicated via email and Google documents. They’ve never spoken or met (and both look forward to doing so some time. Maybe AWP 2010).
Watch the completed video here. –Eds.
If you can’t see the video, you need to download Flash.
The river gave no sign
of where she might have drifted.
It carried the sky and trees like roots.
Leaves traced hieroglyphics
along the snaking spine of a gravel path
that led to the road. Cars passed
in transit, unwilling to stop
for a vine-draped shadow glimpsed
at the edge of light.
Arney’s girl was seen
near the rubble at the old quarry,
pale limbs twined with weeds,
curls of ivy on crumbling stone.
A fusion of need and air,
we reached for her like
drowning victims emerging
wild to claw the sun.
When the search parties stopped,
the land was changed.
We returned to the river,
its flux her blood.
We started with a raw video of clips Christine shot while running errands in her town. After Michelle and Jo viewed the video, Michelle suggested a theme of ‘disappearance,’ and came up with a rough outline for a narrative that we all liked. There were a few images and scenes that Jo felt didn’t quite go with our intended poem, which we later deleted. We didn’t know how the lines would turn out, but we did have an idea of where we were going from the start.
Writing line by line, we alternated between the three of us via Facebook, a convenient option since Jo lives in England, Michelle is in South Africa, and Christine is in the US. At times we disclosed what was in our minds as we wrote — this particular aspect of our collaboration is important, because we did not write blindly. The poem is more a result of a merging of minds rather than a serendipitous creation.
Whoever said “three’s a crowd” never collaborated on a poem. Although having three different poets weighing in on each word was at times unwieldy, we came to an agreement about the success of each line fairly quickly.
After brainstorming for titles and reaching a consensus about closing the poem, we recorded the voice, and completed the video.
(Watch more qarrtsiluni videos here. —Eds.)