Nature in the Cracks

On the Outside

A half-hour before the first bell,
as the kids from the early buses
were milling around in the hall
waiting for the library to open,
a robin began to assault
the courtyard window.

A crowd quickly gathered.
He wants in!
Look at him.
What’s wrong with this fucking bird?

Hammering the glass
with its beak & wings
& ineffectual claws.

The jocks thought it was a riot.
Look out, Jim — he’s after you!
He’s gonna kick your ass.

Then the librarian unlocked the door
& everyone ran to get a seat
& a newspaper, except
for one girl with lank hair
& clothes from the Salvation Army.
He don’t want to come in, she murmured.
He wants that fat thing
that mocks his every move
to meet him outside.


Every time we post a new theme announcement at qarrtsiluni, I find myself writing poems in response to the theme without really intending to. As one of the two managing editors, I can’t submit my own work, but none of the rest of you are bound by any such restrictions, so go check out the Call For Submissions. The theme this time is “Nature in the Cracks,” with guest editors Brent Goodman and Ken Lamberton. They write,

We’re seeking prose, poetry, and artwork that celebrates the nature of the world revealed by time, weather, decay, cycle, and neglect. It’s the understated beauty of the stain inside a teacup, not the ornate pattern decorating the porcelain. It’s a sadness for old barns slouching in fog, the branch you accidentally break that turns the owl’s moon face your direction. It’s the liver spots on your grandmother’s forearm, the crooked curl of her fingers over the rocker arm. It’s the well-worn patch of wood stain faded smooth there. […]

It’s in the cracks where nature adjusts, changes, and teems, a marginal place that exists without borders, physical or theoretical, a place where something new might evolve out of the muck. “Nature in the Cracks” seeks writing about wildness found in strange places — from landfills to prisons, sidewalk cracks to salad crispers.

Read the rest here.

10 Replies to “Nature in the Cracks”

  1. I’ve got the photo to accompany your poem somewhere in my files.
    The Robin is staring disconsolately at the window. I think I even recorded the little poop piles he was leaving in defiance of that ‘mocking fat thing’. Nice poem.

  2. Cool poem indeed, and inspiring. I also find the calls for submissions poetic themselves. Illustrative, but sometimes a bit scary: they make me sometimes feel that there’s no way any of my work could address the topics. But reading your poem as a response, I regain a bit of confidence that the call is not impossible to answer… thanks.

  3. Yes to what they said. I hope you’ll celebrate some future Anniversary by publishing your complete Calls for Submission. The CFS is such a neglected form.

    Peace, J

  4. Thanks to all for the kind comments about my poem, which I personally find a bit too prosy – I think I should’ve just made it a prose poem or a very short essay. Oh well.

    Ernesto and Jarrett – Interesting feedback on the CFS. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might find that intimidating, or that my own poem here might offer a counterweight (but keep in mind that, if submitted, it very well might not make the cut!). For the first year and a half of qarrtsiluni’s existence, we didn’t publish theme descriptions at all – the notice in the sidebar was it. But now, yes, the guest editors have made an art form out of it. Beth and I occasionally request some changes in the interests of clarity or concision, but this time we just posted what Brent and Ken gave us.

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