Elizabeth Robinson

The Voynich Manuscript

for I was convinced that it could be read by no one except yourself


Note that a living thing is not named after its author.
A lost thing may be named for whosoever finds it.

It is not unambiguously known.

And in the uneven light, a glimmer.

For here we are not readers, but depictions
bathing in pools,
pools of light.

We are women
with our tiny, upright nipples.

Whose waters flow continuously
from page to page

by what spring unknown.

This welling up. This witch
floating buoyant in her iniquity, this

verdant green water by which to mix
transformation into transformation.

Alchemy’s mud resists the advice of clarity.
And from lead: gold’s blood

pulses, a script that will bear no translation.
Sorcery says that what we

can never understand may
still be beautiful. Nude

stars brandished in the hands
of women who prefer crowns.

only with each other in their fluids.

Yes, trespass. And ink of iron gall
smeared over with late color.

So they swam into untranslatable



Those who so cavorted disappeared then,
as when the roots of one species

fasten to the leaves of another, flowering
from yet a third.

From such overgrowth, watered
page by
page after

pages of bloodletting and

Surely no evil can attend when magic
cannot be attributed to any source.

Overgrowth redounds to ingrowth,
a chord amid chordless melody, they say.

They sing.


They say the clumsy creature is a dragon
and the dragon a sign of evil,

but so frayed the quill, so faded the ink
and no surplus blanket of color

that evil is only a salutation, a spell
in preparation:



the naked woman spreadeagled,
aloft on her green wave who mutters,

as if half asleep,
“Prepare for dragons,”

as she herself exhales

the green fume which
replaces the moon

and controls all tides.



The angel appeared as a cloud,
but rather than wings
—articles of levitation—
there were
bubbling down her back.

Translation: the weight
of the sojourner perches upon her own shoulders,

as divine carbonation. The sky
saturates this figure,

as each messenger has a taste for
her own condensation.



Sequence was a mystic or an aphrodisiac
bending from the veins or through them.

Beginning clings to its stigmata only because the hollow
rejects explanation. Erotic error

hovers over its indentation, center uncontained.

Sequence, no, a clot, no, a knotted cluster of veins
that claimed itself as a body.

Aphrodisiac that stirs the no-body.

Adoration that scorns fulfillment as excess.

This holey vessel. This. This. This

sequence becomes epiphany, choking itself off.

Sequence wandering without shoes, then without feet.

To renege on delirium.

Orgiastic sequence diffused in a cloud of pronouns.



The sleeper embedded
silver thorns in her
palm. Sleep-sighing,
she strikes a match.
Incendiary as glycerine,
her hand wicks light.
The body circles around
this, an inspection of its own
imposture. “Body,”
she sleep-talks, “you are
my candelabra.” Mortal
afire. “Speak in tongues,
as the unfeasible
do.” Tongues radiating
to the hand, clutching
its receding word.



Radiant veil, undiscover what has overcome you.


We once were explorers and then we were exterminated.

Posthumously, we protest.


When we were done away with, we shrugged, gave way to the body, walked it along

the Camino. Florid pennant.


We strode toward the frontier of eradication, took the pelt from our sinew, gave it up

to its word: a name of sorts, a synonym.


The new definition of shimmer: evaporation. The lake that wanders.

After the fact, we refused. Arranged the skin as a sleek scarf and let it spell itself

before it proceeded from view far beyond the road.

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of Excursive, recently out from Roof Books. Thirst & Surfeit is forthcoming in a slightly mysterious future from Threadsuns Press. Robinson’s work has recently appeared in Conjunctions, Fence, Image, Volt, and other periodicals.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) 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.