Denise Leto

Mythical Map of the Sea

She had no practice outside air.

In a sleepless reach birds no longer

knew whether the tide was in or out.

The radical gloss of radiation.

The scar became a claw against her cheek.

It scraped and whistled.

Witnessing drowned her autopsy.

Disintegration wore the cosmos from her glands.

Washing and washing and watching.

Genealogy was once pretty: standing near

an asterisk of sand in her eyes for years.

Death is her healer because she is

no longer in pain they tell me.

Wading in muddy birthmarks.

The landward limit of debris.

In which a person of no consequence.

But how she loved the feel of it once.

Washing and washing and wanting.

Her face scattering the shorebirds.

Among the things that could not save her.

An indecorous battery of conversation.

The bait of rescue emerging.

Her lips surfaced a sea of commas.

Let her float at the mouth

Let her mouth part flesh.

Postcard Divinations

1.   The Archaic Frame of Body

Bone as an exhalation of form

glass stained by glass

Time as a mirror of negation

no help in the heap of surrender

Home as a parlor of fish

the yard in your world in duress

Words are unfavorable to infinity

we could not have known what leaving would mean.


2.   A Charge of Wildness Crashing into a Paper Tree

She became a teller of screams.

Fell away into a halo of keys.

A nest can be a shallow depression in sand, a burrow in the ground, a chamber
in a tree, an enormous pile of seaweed, a mud dome with an entrance tunnel.


3.   The Shell of a Shadow in an Egg

St. Ann is the patron saint of horseback riders and doors.
She asked, “Please, tell me what this means?”


4.   ci vediamo

From different parts of the world. As to what they are called.
Her three-dimensional bay of altars made language stampede.

The absence of message-space on the address side of early
postcards became known as the Undivided Back Period.

“I am an old woman,” she said, “you must come back soon.”
The dark purple octopus: its pride of tentacles on my tongue.

Our Sicilian fishing port no longer maps.
Her quadrant of arms is my new nautilus.

The cloud was a fin or a brain therefore I returned.
The seam of not touching.

I often wanted

to lift her in the air,

lift and lift.


5.   Mask, Pause, Mask
—Violet Juno

To be always where you started.

Unselfed by beauty.


6.   The First Visitation

A poet’s mouth in the statue’s mouth.

You cannot go back to a point of origin

placing elegant patterns in cadaverous replica.

Nostalgia looping around her voluptuary:

talismanic, skeletal.

The marble forceps pulling.

But when I saw her molecules cascade—

I wanted—it didn’t matter how near or far—

to touch them like skin.

Mystic with a Dishtowel

—for Linda

Eating is a womb, she finds, of those who are under.
The church can’t think—it is more like a spoon.

The more I am in the sea, the more I believe in ghosts.
She ate part of the shore. It ran into her mouth the moment she meant to flee.

The twinning stained glass covets their molten hands folded in the kitchen.
She watches, “Love is Colder than Death” and walks in rings trying to be breath.

And what is dangerous becomes her.
“You are like the composer,” she said, “ you must always be in love.”

Her islands archive: urban hills, pots, thighs, shoes, music, glasses.
She paints daughters, swans, promises. They said, “Bring us a plate of food.”

She split the geography of gardens from cutting board to radio to where they cannot be.
The more I am in your architecture, the more I mitochondria.

A hole in the air that empties air: this is what it is not to be able to read poems.
Muse with a knife in her boot. A lamb in her land.

Denise Leto is a poet, artist, and performance experimenter. She wrote the poetry for the collaborative multi-genre performance Your Body is Not a Shark (North Beach Press). She and Amber DiPietra wrote the chapbook Waveform (Kenning Editions). A limited edition broadside is out from Gazing Grain Press. She received the Orlando Prize in Poetry and her fellowships include the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Breadloaf Residency in Sicily, and the inaugural Sugarloaf Queer Art Residency.
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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.

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