Deborah Poe

Proun (fifth)


You play in Atlantic waves with a father in limitless space; his arms, your toes, safety in sand.

Bodies in bathing suits span three dimensions.

The observer, a child, elates the frame.

Helmet cradles head on passing plane. Reverse vertigo averts sovereign gaze.

Beloved memories conflict what in these spaces, contrail lines, linear enough to act as ground.

Foundations, a simultaneous tug and shove, movement seen by angles, sharper lines.

You don’t have to understand. What is lost when you ask why.


Mechanism and metaphor constrain one another.

Then they’re business proposals.

The woman, windowed, stands at architecture’s edge—arch(es) in the frame.


A penny heads up a message as much as the one heads down.

Languages that aggregate, beyond radicals and with tones.

Paris, Houston, Portland—events that fold back on themselves.

You understand the continuous surface as multiplication watching rain bounce off the pavement envisioning milepost as Mobius strip.

Proun (seventh)


You shape the letters to resemble conglomerations of contours found in natural scenes.

Such characters articulate the landscape.

Look at the root; it says to speak or pronounce. From whence the Word of God. Identical to bee.

Buzzing above layers in the soil, trees circle, wide enough to cask the time.

Lumberguts, sheet rock, sap, a building and simultaneous decay, a lush green.

You don’t have to connect dirt to language. But the histories cave right there.


Memory and soil serve one another.

Then they’re the wild frontier.

The posse, gathered—inferotemporal cortex at the encode corral.


Epitaphs point to bodies grabbed by earth.

A caretaker gestures above the grass.

Summer, demolition, cemetery—mortared and undone.

You understand these ants, the frantic movement beyond stillness they cement.



For Proun (seventh), the following quote from Oliver Sack’s The Mind’s Eye was key:

“Changizi, et al. have found similar topological invariants in a range of natural settings, and this has led them to hypothesize that the shapes of letters ‘have been selected to resemble the conglomerations of contours found in natural scenes, thereby tapping into our already-existing object recognition mechanisms.’” (74)

“Buzzing above layers in the soil, trees circle, wide enough to cask the time” appeared in a letterpress edition of 30, created by Deborah Poe at The Windowpane Press in Seattle.

Artist’s Statement

I discovered El Lissitzky’s Proun at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University in March of 2013. The term drew me in, making me think at once of prose and noun. Proun is a term El Lissitzky’s coined, which he once defined as “the station where one changes from painting to architecture.” When I found Lissitzky’s definition, I was thrilled to think of the proun relative to memory and place. Though his definition was fairly ambiguous, it possessed a decidedly spatial quality, and the aspect of “translating” from one medium to another interested me greatly. I decided at the museum to write my fourth section of keep as “prouns,” wherein I attempted to translate the spatial—the canvas of place(s)—to language on the page.

Deborah Poe is the author of the poetry collections the last will be stone, too (Stockport Flats), Elements (Stockport Flats), and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords), as well as a novella in verse, Hélène (Furniture Press). Deborah Poe is associate professor of English at Pace University, where she directs the creative writing program and founded and curates the annual Handmade/Homemade Exhibit.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.