Adrian Lurssen

Landscape No Longer in a Mother Tongue

…to speak like one’s mother, means to dwell,
even there where there are no tents

—Paul Celan

I am his voice she said in spite
of silence. A definition not unlike fire-

eater, half-brother, mother-descended
river. His lips concealed in mist. Tell me,

what does she do for the living?
In a game of meaning they glimpsed

self-conscious human nature — doubt
as physical posture. She could will her

self into his dreams: chair, child,
crocodile, shape-shifter with heads

of elephants. Eventually one might
accept these boundaries of home

as given. She would say bees or blood,
he said. Out of earshot is a river, she said.

And then a flood of newly acquired words,
snakes curled about a family name, ritual

of origins in the buzzing dark
of tombs, a child buried

and reborn. And in the corners
of her eyes: smirk of a muse.

Between I and you comes
a sounding out against

picture frames, chanting in exchange
for landscape. She spoke

as if underwater: Here
is a map. Here, a spoonful

of honey. Lying in wait,
the curious air of a genie

unhindered by voice,
she was indifferent

as smoke and driftwood.
His remembered fingers

volunteered into shapes on her
belly: goose, crescent, eagle,

hawk, fire-arm, rhino.
They were reading secrets

of a mother’s young blood.
Meaning formed

in the darker shades
of an uncovered continent.

She engraved names
on slabs of clay,

a family music in
the imposed balance of finger

fist and feet. A process
of speaking without language,

of prolonging lives
of animals in the delicate

etch and plunge and rhythm
of his unstoppable

Adam’s apple. He spoke
but she was speaking.

Fail to Contain

Tree lines and stars made of wire
An empty field that isn’t

The swipe of quiet animals
learning to cross in order

A child in a cage
The image of a child in a cage

There is no explaining
It is all part of the explanation

In order to what? Or, state
your name when it is your turn:

Their there
Their their

There there
They’re there

Official voice from an imagined room
testing borders

between rhyme and repetition
Lines forming

in favor of the privilege
of song or the rubber

stamp on hard wood
the kick in the teeth

the gull’s beak and the story
of time and a mountain

eventually: the anthem

song that sounds of footfall or muted
tapping on glass

a way of measuring time
but no longer reflecting it

Two poems from Watched for Music


They were discussing the eternal meaning (Yes) of love —

That afternoon, that life, this aristocracy: a brief American moment, an attempt at affirmation like saying freedom is innocent or the road is real, merely to open a flood of trying, a flight toward the innocent, the impossible.

Experience requires faith when eternity is an exit from sense. Every removal ends on the inner road, a tribute to force, or innocent’s negative: the respect for Now.

This way out for children of an afternoon in America. Our rich, noble trying, our Now: an afternoon of innocence behind the curtain.

After which, the one becomes your Now.


Through the storm and after the rain in all ways and forever —

The privilege of your spiritual art lives like a merciful rain. And so the psalm resolves to be in, even when engagement means irresolution and only instruments strike for tenor. In with vibration: rain as vibration, rain as a way to enter contradiction.

Or, the in of investment: the supreme instrument becomes love, thankful, a future engineered to be unerring.

Unerringly gracious, not unlike an acknowledgement should love ever experience love.

Adrian Lurssen’s work has recently appeared in WITNESS and the Boston Review’s “What Nature” anthology. Additional poems from his Watched for Music series are published in Word For/Word #33.
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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.