Stephen Massimilla

faint-lit photo-thought

but so many little masks (marks, tasks)
make a life. so infinite. she was living
to leave some work, instead of (pell-mell) organizing nothings,
despite a delicate body, floating
in plasma—she didn’t know
if she could do another year of falseness
while missing him (so vain, so masochistic)
not at all, just the idea
of him (sickness in the coolness),
so much. the split came between what she felt
and what she thought she needed to believe,
like real things don’t hurt,
just having a mind
to come down from the lightfastness
of this insomnia high, to do away with
(neatness and simplicity) herself
as neatly and simply as possible. think
you were feeling this because it’s not possible?
think again
(she thought). think
what you were
thinking when
you thought that.

Miracle Fruits

—after Rilke

Where, in what always watered and beatific garden, on what
trees, from which tenderly stripped, leafless blossom-cups
do the strange fruits of Solace ripen? These exquisite
globes: maybe you’ll find one in the trampled meadows

of your desolation. Once, many times over,
you marvel at the great size of the fruit,
at its wholesomeness, at the supple luster of the skin,
and that the recklessness of the bird or jealousy of the worm didn’t

get there first. Are there trees, then, flocking with seraphs?
And so strangely nurtured by slow, concealed gardeners
that they bear fruits that were never even meant for us?

Have we ever been able, we shadows, we grotesques,
through our actions—too rashly ripened and suddenly withered—
to disturb the impassable equanimity of that summer?

Far North of You


You were like a faith
I could turn to in a city stuck

in its own Dark Age.

Black doves rippled
through pinnacles riddled

with church bells over tracks
where charred faces
pressed in from the sides.

With no hunger,
no danger to turn from, I dream
of leaving.


What does it mean, like a faith?
Your eyes burned white
in their centers, like those
in the calcified face
of the sphinx. From my window
I made out your paws
in foothills,

your mane in a cloud,
a halo. I squinted
to be sure
not to be too sure.


One day I followed a couple
to a murmurous niche
in a church, where a Virgin’s skin peeled
in waves of gold. Oil
had streamed
from her eyes, leaving tracks

in the onion-green boards. The incident later
found a place
in the local paper,
though the article
was tread-marked.

Oil Flew Into the Sea

and some of it was on fire,
as were the men ejected into the air by their own depth charges.

It takes a hundred pounds of high-octane gas to announce this end.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The dead silent Icelandic charter, The Snow,
out in the North Atlantic for forty-six days

in the air gap south of Greenland.
Long way from grandmother’s flannel.

In my night trance, I’m the man beyond the reach of waking:
Hidden in the dreamed sailor’s sinking pocket, a minute atlas
with a tiny map

of New York in it; in his faraway locker, a yellow postcard
of a prismatic woman with a scorpion cross
pinned to each hand.

His closest shipmate doesn’t love her,
doesn’t even know her in person.

Nor what to make of my longed-for light, sliver-moon
of her torso bulleted with diamonds

against the high-pitched banners
of red sirens, an unreachable city riddled with desire.

I’d better have laid a pink rubber mat on the bed
before wishing and shaking so much
that I wake up in a pool of water.

Of the people I thought I loved,
I see two paddling on a strafed ocean as vast as God’s hand.

They clasp, and I drift away, my face sunk in my burst-open fists.

Stephen Massimilla’s (co-authored) volume, Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare is just out from Tupelo Press. Acclaim for his other books includes an SFASU Press Prize for The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat; the Bordighera/CUNY Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday; the Grolier Prize for Later on Aiaia; a Van Renssalaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; and other honors. His poems have appeared in hundreds of publications from AGNI to Verse Daily. Massimilla holds an MFA and a PhD from Columbia University and teaches at Columbia and the New School. (For more info:
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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.