Without the river children cannot learn how to count

By Kaylin Obst, Lindsay Sorell

Issue 010, Volume Three | Fall 2017

“If you open your mouth, ache”—the overarching epigraph for Sina Queyras’s body of written work. She leads me to believe that, more than just speaking words, intellectualizing, writing is opening yourself up to the ache, paying attention to the rot, capturing instances around you—inside you.

An ache, and a type of magical realism in Queyras’s work, resonates with a series of Holga photographs by Calgary-based artist, Kaylin Obst. A couple weeks ago, my poetry instructor, Vivian Hansen, read us Queyras’s “Even the idea of river,” about a town and a river, from her book, Lemon Hound. Here is the last section of it; I think it’s important to read it aloud:

Without the river mirrorless, the sky mourns. Without the river deer go deaf. Without the river leaves thirst. Without the river bear lose their teeth. Without the river beak, paw, soil, feather. Without the river mountains shy. Without the river the ducks pass in the air, days climb one on another. Without the river children cannot learn how to count. Without the river there are no wings. Without the river nothing passes. Without the river stillness. Without the river trees turn away. Without the river the sun is angry. Without the river the land is seamless. Without the river it breaks apart. Without the river fish walk. Without the river rocks scurry. Without the river bear and cougar nod into the earth’s elbow, sleep. 1

They hit the same soft beats; our utter reliance on the unseen laws and structures of nature is made articulate; a power that exists as if ghostly, manifesting as a global familiarity, resonates an inexplicable comfort. Artists remembering some legend that pre-exists and will continue to exist after we are gone, Queyras and Obst dwell on it in these works with a similar sensitivity and oscillating feeling; moving like a shiver, a whisper, a soft wind of reality. A poignant sameness exists in the photographs, taken all over the world: Sweden, Paris, in Calgary’s neighbourhood of Bridgeland. Semi-transparent children cartwheel in space, time overlaps, cloths hang on the line in Bridgeland as they do in The Eastern Docklands. Water—also snow—flies. And what would we do without it, we could not read, we could not count. We are indebted.


Introduction by Lindsay Sorell.


  1. Sina Queyras, Lemon Hound (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2006), 14. 

  2. Swedish Horse, 2015, Holga 135 photograph.

  3. My Aunt's Porch, 2014, Holga 135 Photograph.

  4. Bridgeland Backyard, 2017, Holga 135 Photograph.

  5. Eastern Docklands, 2012, Holga 135 Photograph.

  6. Pompidou, 2012, Holga 135 Photograph.

  7. Le Marais, 2012, Holga 135 Photograph.

  8. Jardin du Luxembourg, 2012, Holga 135 Photograph.

  9. Cowichan Swim, 2014, Holga 135 Photograph.

  10. Water Nymph, 2012, Holga 135 Photograph.

  11. Yoho, 2013, Holga 135 Photograph.

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