Barbara Henning

from DIGIGRAMS

Feb 24, 2016

—yesterday in the 20’s—stinging air—on skin and in lungs—today 50 degrees—and raining—a lanky guy comes into class—wearing earmuffs—making air quotes with his fingers—the word “safe”—slowly turning the page—his fingers relaxed—hands resemble—my former lover’s—I leave the room—cough—a young man in the hallway—hello—must have been—my student—some time before—at 9 pm the storm thins—brownish fog—in the gothic LIU garage—weird weather—the outlook for 2016—gloomy—German business leaders urge Russians—uphold a cease-fire—in the Ukraine—all agree—it’s going to stay warm now—walking home—on Avenue A—a man asks—do you want cocaine—

Feb 25, 2016

—a full moon—wake up late—open my mail—a check—damp and cold—on Avenue B—the way to the credit union—an american flag strikes the flag pole—news from outside the windshield—an archbishop guides parishioners—catholic-leaning alternatives—for girl scout cookies—during the crusades—thousands of children marched to their death—children crowding—into the earth school—cut the ball back to Müller—guide it seamlessly along the ground—coughing—lose control of the car—slam it into the cement guide—along the ramp—in the gothic parking garage—all bully university did for the man—was ruin his credit—

May 9, 2016

—pick up the inmate—in the woods—off the Garden State—a week on the run—70 something—too warm—traffic dense—biking in a cloud of smoke—yell at uber—big black cars—the air thick—watch a man in the park—big black boots—white wrinkled pants—trouble walking—lifting his knees—one at a time—as if with a pulley—3 hours sleep last night—must drive a cab 12 hours—to get by—you’re killing yourself—with eyes closed—at St Marks—the podium poet—whisks it up—stiff peaks form—Don Yorty takes a swig—of vodka—then the chatty—New York school—backwards—and sideways—out the door—we go—at 2nd Ave and 10th Street—

Aug 1, 2016

—truth and lies viral—rampant hatred—an American man dumps—boiling water—on two sleeping men—a curfew to quell rioting—after a police shooting—if only—as simple as—a belief—in ancestors—in Madagascar—to wear red—at the waterfront—you may incite—an ancestor’s wrath—naked under a sheet at 1 a.m.—in Marquette Michigan—the night so quiet—the trees still—no movement—a slight ringing—in the mind—we can squash Mr. Bully—we can we can—dear mother—dear grandmother—please—send qi—outside a high pitched ringing—between the rising wind—and a chorus of crickets—all other animals—in this house—are sound asleep—

Oct 26, 2016

—when surfing in 28 degree water—or stuck in traffic—for 63 hours a year—your brain freezes—your chin gets stiff—no angry mobs in Tehran—shouting “Death to America”— No McDonald’s in Tehran—instead, a homegrown Mash Donald——dreaming—of a woman with blonde hair—chin length—at a restaurant table—with a younger dejected bully—hey, don’t worry—she says looking down at him—I’ll let you see em later—he drops his head—a sad puppy—so sad—so horrible—when the phone rings—we all wake up—to headlines with his name—oh no—and they’re just not true—he says—everyone must love me—digital twitter talk—can’t be recaptured—and you can’t bury it—it’s out there—scattered in air, on land, at sea—North Africa to Europe—Seawatch reports—2400 migrants rescued—four children dead—

June 8, 2017

—on 12th Street—the refrigerator—whines and shudders—in a redbrick Quaker meeting house—in Denver—undocumented humans hide—the cortisol rising higher—a judge in Virginia—declares—the Supreme Court will surely shudder—the bully sends a tweet—Kim Jong-un sends a missile into the Sea of Japan—the doors to the bodega open—the heart of a fruit fly—beating at the same pace—as humans—up the hill to 12th Street—a group of men—smoking and talking—Hola—we nod—one to the other—

In 2016, I bought a collection of writing and art by the dadaist, Elsa Von Freytag-Lorenhaven, also known as the Baroness: Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011). I pored over this book, laughing at the way she took William Carlos Williams to task (old observations minted wisdom). She was the ultimate beat/punk artist, scoffing at bourgeois society. Reading her poems, I thought to myself — they are like ecliptic telegrams to the world — pieces of consciousness—streaming—piece by piece. At the time I was collecting poetic material from my journals, arranging, rearranging and collaging in news from the days before and around. Meanwhile I felt desperate — as did many others — about the political situation unfolding in the country. The bully was not yet elected, but the hate on mainstream media was shocking. Then he won the election — how horrifying. Greed, wealth, ignorance and hate arm-in-arm. As I read the Baroness, I picked up her rhythms and started translating my poems into ecliptic messages. I’m nowhere near as anti-establishment or as abrasive as the Baroness, but her rhythms and her streaming appealed to me. These are “Digigrams,” messages to the world from this particular consciousness, at this particular point in space and time, translated digitally, from me to you.

Barbara Henning is the author of three novels and several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015), A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, she presently lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of nine books and chapbooks, including Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her tenth book, Zoom, was awarded the Washington Prize and will be published in 2018. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.