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car·a·van (more gypsies)

Elephant Girl



car·a·van (ˈkarəˌvan), n. [Fr. caravone; OFr. karouan; Per. karwan, caravan],  1.  a company of travelers, especially of merchants or pilgrims traveling together for safety, as through a desert  2. a number of vehicles traveling together.  3. a large covered vehicle for passengers, circus animals, gypsies, etc.; van.  

We’re rounding out our week of caravaning (see previous two posts). Today, another joins the caravan.



Jesus Wagon


This doesn’t make a ton of sense, but when I think of a caravan, I think of Jesus.  An image lingers from the novel Quarantine by Jim Crace. The story begins as a caravan of travelers and merchants winds through the desert. A man in the group is dying. For a few days the caravan stops to allow the man to recover, but when his conditions worsen, the decision is made to leave him behind. The man’s wife is required by custom and consensus to stay with him. She has no choice, and even though the man has been a terrible and abusive mate for her, she has to leave the caravan and wait for him to die.  As the story progresses, she meets Jesus who is spending his 40 days and 40 nights alone in the desert.  That’s pretty much where my association with Jesus and caravans comes from.  Am I right in perceiving a kind of utilitarian underpinning in the philosophy of caravans?  At what point do caravans look after the individual, and at what point do the members of a caravan abandon their burdensome colleague so that the majority of the group can continue on the journey? Jim Crace’s novel Quarantine is no religious text, but it tells a good story, and it sets up two modes with regards to coping with life. There’s the Jesus paradigm and the nomad paradigm. There’s the character alone in the desert, and there’s the wagon full of passers-by. Which one am I? Am I one of the men in the caravan, or am I one of the men who watches the caravan go past?

—Timothy Dyke


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car·a·van (a new string of wagons)


Caravan 3 by Noah Saterstrom, with words by Julia Gordon


car·a·van (ˈkarəˌvan), n. [Fr. caravone; OFr. karouan; Per. karwan, caravan],  1.  a company of travelers, especially of merchants or pilgrims traveling together for safety, as through a desert  2. a number of vehicles traveling together.  3. a large covered vehicle for passengers, circus animals, gypsies, etc.; van.  (see previous post)


Caravan 1 by Noah Saterstrom, with words by Amanda Sapir



Sometimes I get lost

and then I am grateful

for noises in the dark

 —Kristen Nelson



Caravan 2 by Noah Saterstrom, with words by Frankie Rollins



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Sahara Desert Caravan


car·a·van (ˈkarəˌvan), n. [Fr. caravone; OFr. karouan; Per. karwan, caravan],  1.  a company of travelers, especially of merchants or pilgrims traveling together for safety, as through a desert  2. a number of vehicles traveling together.  3. a large covered vehicle for passengers, circus animals, gypsies, etc.; van.



My Desert Caravan:

In Tucson, I have been completely and utterly blessed to have a company of travelers in the desert. These artists, writers, thinkers are not only companions for the journey but muses for my creative endeavors. They are my large-covered vehicle, my circus animals, my gypsies. They are truthtellers. They are truthseekers. They are oracles. They speak in poetry and image and they ask me the hard questions that my soul needs to be asked but dares not ask itself. I asked some of these members of my caravan to offer their own interpretation of caravan.

And in the spirit of a caravan, these posts, which begin now, will be continuing to move, expand, and add new members throughout the week. Join us.

Join us for the journey.


"traveling through the Sahara desert in Morocco," by Izabela Szatylowicz



(((the first string of camels))))


We enter into this line of hearts, strung across the horizon of desert like sanctuaries, each with a bright, open, door. We hitch. In here: plates of tortillas and beans are passed.  Someone plays guitar. Out there: the sun spreads muscular, casually pounding all things white. We move through daily desires, drink good, strong coffee.  Drink good, strong whiskey.  Drink good, clear water.  Some sleep, pulling dusty blankets to the ears.  Some scratch marks onto paper tablets.  Some murmur.  Rustle in crates.  Finally, humming blue dusk dips wild wings into the cooling night, flings it across. We stir. We stumble out through the doors into the milky rising tongue-spill of stars.  We bring out cloths, chairs, set the fire burning.  We pass thoughts back and forth, tender and delicate as onion skins, and begin sewing the day’s most important meal.

—Frankie Rollins



~            ~            ~~~                         ~~                        ~~~~~            ~            ~~~~~~



through city lights of the soul as companions

at the helm together, one atop a camel throne

a sound around our imagination belly


to press on,  landscapes intersexual and always dramatic

to press on,  mountains plunge peaks  into ecstatic promenade

to press on, moonlight soft /sharp spreading

to press on, as viscera animal


a feast  in the bosom of the cornucopia

a perpendicular and parallel circus

our roads are story



to travel is to become one letter at a time

to be together is to form a word

landscape is our molding

—Amanda Elizabeth Sapir






Cara. Van. Cara. Van. Cara. Care. Can you car-re? How much is enough to strap on our backs? How much is too much to car-ry?  How do we know? They care, the carried, the carrying. The care itself a bundle. Within that checkered napkin, pieces of desires, imaginings, uncertainties. A spoon for serving them up, a knife for cutting through.

This care, could you hold it? Could you place it somewhere for safekeeping? In your pocket perhaps. Tucked away in the corner of the carriage, nestled with the glass bottles, as they softly rattle. This place so full of nothing that the everything rushes into it, spills over sometimes. But the everything is welcome in a place that often feels scarce. It’s scarce or it’s overflowing; there is no in between.

A place of lushness can be scarce too, it’s fullness means you sometimes forget to trim back, forget to breathe. But in this place, the dearth is more obvious. There is openness across the horizon, all the space to dream and to despair. A wide-angle shot filled with brown earth. And the sky when it breaks apart in color—purples, reds, siennas raging strong across the firmament.


— &


This caravan a blessing. This caravan a hearse. And too, a bridal train. A band with trumpets and tubas and trombones. Those, and large thrumming drums. We are cloaked in feathers. This enveloping a sort of being reborn, a tentative step forward. We throw up our open hands and scatter colored glitter in the air. Particles cascade down unto our faces and our garments. And though this path is arduous, we do not tire. We tend each other’s shoulders and feet. We whisper soft words. And when we need to, we wail. Our cries echo into the blanket of deep blue. Our laughter is our becoming.

—Lisa O’Neill



((((((((((((((((((                 ))))))))))))))))))))             (((((((((                        ))))))))))))



He comes from down there, by the river.  She comes from up there, by the sea. That one comes from everywhere, up and down, left, right, and center, a big “x” already traced across the land before she arrives.  He comes from another, still the same yet different, and makes it anyway.    She came by covered wagon and made a diagonal from corner to corner like it says in the story books. He came with a dog. She put her dog down and came without him. He came across the sea. She came flying out of the sky with no parachute but five diamond rings. She comes from somewhere in the vast grey middle, and has forgotten how she got here in the first place. We all come from the vast grey middle, and have forgotten how we got here in the first place.   We all forget how we got here in the first place.  We have all forgotten how we got here in the first place. We all stay. As we stay we forget less. As we stay we remember more. And then: he leaves across the sea.  She takes off into the sky with a rocket pack filled with mountain fuel.  She re-traces her x and decides to stop where the axes meet. He turns into a lizard and has another incarnation. Her dog comes back to life in the form of a parrot. He goes back, to the river.   She goes back, to the sea. The river is a different river. The sea is a different sea. The wagon-canvas is a cape with wings. We forget why we came.  We forget why we left.  We remember, we remember, we remember.

—Julia Gordon


— &more&more&more.to.come

Desert Caravan by Jure Oblak



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port⋅ance, v1

As I mentioned in my last post, this week I will be featuring posts by guest contributors who are offering their own insights and observations on the first word ever randomly selected for the dictionary project:

port⋅ance (pôr/t’ns), n. [Early Mod. Eng. < porter, to bear, carry; cf. –ANCE], [Archaic], conduct; bearing; carriage; demeanor

This first post is from Julie Lauterbach-Colby*.

“Lines Appearing, Distant Points”

We study the line. From point A to point B we have the closest distance. Draw a footpath, map out a solid trail of breadcrumbs. Denote journey and begin.

Intersection of lines, latitude and longitude, a knitting, a stitch. Sense of security; single location of one self in space. I say one, because, can we ever possess our whole selves in any given moment? Denote a journey, a beginning.

We are all familiar with the history of the GPS (I wasn’t). Devloped by the military to deliver an exact point, an exact location. We are talking precision here: the most authoritative mode of travel, point A to point B and nothing else, nothing outside. Similar to (and at the same time, nothing like) medieval road maps.

Matthew Paris, an English monk from the 1200s, was famous for them. He made the maps in likeness to Roman army parchment maps: thin strips, the maps only showing road and important places along that journey. Most often, these journeys were spiritual: how to travel from London to Jerusalem for a holy pilgrimage.

(How to, with accompanying pictures for each: Start in London [A]; cross the English Channel [B]; through France [C, where the whole country was drawn as a single castle with three spires]; into Italy [D]; across the sea [E]; onward to the holy land [J, with a few undeciphered points in-between].)

Notes in the margin of the parchment scaled distance, how long it would take one to travel between destinations. Roads were straight—study the line: from point A to point B we have the closet distance. Nothing exists outside the frame, no chance for wandering minds, no detail for lay of the land. These maps were about getting. About time-management, efficiency. Exactness, with a clear sense of exclusion. As in, “Shoulders back, chin up.” Presentation of one self and oneself. (I cannot seem to stress this enough.)

It was from a fear of its exactness that military personnel insisted that the GPS technology remain hidden from the world citizen. In 199__ the Clinton administration “unscrambled” the codes and put the GPS on the public’s radar.

Take a GPS and map out a ten-mile radius from where you are (your house, your car, your supermarket, your post office, your church) and follow that breadcrumb trail from each direction: go N, NE, E; SE, S, SW; W, NW. Upon arrival, turn 360° and take in the view.

You’re going to this one spot, and it’s a dictated spot. Once you get there, infinite possibilities. The first sea cartographers used x to mark not treasure but danger. Define trespassing: there are a million ways in which I lie.

*Julie Lauterbach-Colby is a writer, teacher and artist living in Tucson. She is currently working on a project that incorporates cartography, mathematical equations and cadavers, and owns her own editing business called Chicken Scratch Editing.

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