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.

Julie Marie Wade

Jeopardy! Category: P Words

 

There’s change in it, the kind a greedy wisher tosses in a well, hoping for a return of 10 to 1. You won’t see this change at first, won’t know how to even pronounce it, but the coin is there, shadowing every future investment. Conversations about this word will quickly (inevitably?) turn meta. It’s associated with shifts after all, & these are depicted in amusing ways on PowerPoint slides. One old standard is the manila paper airplane branching away from the fleet of white. Little slashes to indicate loop-di-loops. There’s also a piebald Rubik’s cube mid-twist, and a series of matte arrows pointing down with one glossy or glowing arrow pointing up. Mostly, you will have an experience before learning the language to identify it, explain it. In a broader sense, this phenomenon is college, where the lexicon begins to bloat at prodigious rates. It’s uncomfortable when your old jeans don’t fit anymore, so imagine that too-tight feeling around your brain. Zipper-stick. Button-wince. But with concepts. Heteronormativity. Pinch. Gendered double bind. Pinch. White privilege. Pinch. And it’s worse than finding out you didn’t know because you were made to believe you did. Unlearning is like the scene in a hospital hallway where doctors cut a trauma patient out of their clothes. Forget the zippers! Forget the buttons! There’s no time! Bear in mind those scissors are medical grade. Bear in mind those scissors are coming for your mind. It’s your old version of reality that’s fading now, losing consciousness. Suddenly, the literal & metaphorical overlap. Your old worldview is fading. Your former consciousness is lost. In the analogy, though, you won’t actually benefit from triage. Angie calls this scenario “fake questioning”—when you wrap some gauze around a wound & reavow all the old bullshit—I mean, previous ideological frameworks. I learned this word my first week of college. Like many words, it floated around me, Baader-Meinhofed into ubiquity. The first person I ever heard say it is still one of the smartest people I know. I loved him effortlessly with my mind but found no place for him in my body. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just make the cognitive & corporeal align? Then, the professor said it. She was also my adviser. She was also a lesbian, the first one I ever knew I knew. She was woke before people said woke. I doubted she had ever been asleep. Once, she told me a story about carrying home a huge glass jar of peanut butter when she was broke in grad school. I can’t remember the context for this story now, but I remember being stunned to learn that peanut butter ever came in jars. (Not plastic tubs?) That wasn’t the point. She had so many plans for that jar of peanut butter. All the sandwiches she would make, all the celery stalks she would fortify with protein. Was it creamy or crunchy? No matter. There was a fuck-ton of it—I mean, an epic quantity—& she was so happy to have made an investment in something that would continue to pay off for a long time. But she tripped on the front steps of her apartment building, dropping the jar, which shattered into a dangerous mountain of brown, slivery goo. Inedible, of course. Preposterous to clean. She was sobbing, scooping heaps of it into a garbage bag while wearing her gardening gloves. People were staring, laughing perhaps. She was sobbing as she hosed down the path, sobbing as she traipsed up the stairs. The waste, the loss, the disappointment. When my friend lights his joint so cavalierly & says, “You just have to dig it? Get it? Dig it?” Yeah, I get it. But it’s not always easy to dig the real shifts. Some people get airsick. That’s why they have those paper lunch sacks on airplanes—in case you “lose your lunch.” The professor lost so many lunches, so many snacks! She had her mealtime future so meticulously planned! Sometimes a shift is a harsh slip. Sometimes a dig is a cruel joke. Sometimes what I actually know amounts to a weird log cabin made of used Popsicle sticks, & each one is stained red because the red flavors (cherry, strawberry, raspberry) are the only kind I like. When people ask me how it feels to grow up in Washington & grow old(er) in Florida, I quip, “Apples & oranges.” A smile that feels real, but still, there’s a pinch.

“What is paradigm?”

 

And what of the bodies we leave behind? Aren’t these where, at last, all pre-occupations with mortality must lead? No, I don’t mean the after-life. (Think practical, not spiritual.) I’m interested in the literal after-body, the body post-occupation. (Think practical, not necrophilical.) When the tenant has left the building, regardless of where they head next, what becomes of the flat? Yes, the flat is the no-longer-occupied body. Yes, I like the British word better. Yes, we can think metaphorically & practically at the same time. I find it helps maintain a certain (necessary) distance. And no, I don’t mean the old binary of containment either: casket & bury or casket & burn. This isn’t about scattering ashes or hoarding them in an urn. It’s about the after that comes before that. Post-life/pre-commemoration. What becomes of the body no longer in use? (Now think semantics for a moment, how powerful they are: Should I be calling this de-animated figure a body at all? When precisely does a body stop being a body and start being a corpse, exquisite or otherwise? Maybe it’s like that whole cathedral-basilica thing: All corpses are bodies, but all bodies are not corpses until…? Or maybe, really, it’s like that whole bride-wife thing, which seems even less clear-cut, even more prone to individual interpretation. Is the bride only a bride until she removes the dress? Or is she a bride through her honeymoon, a bride through her first year of marriage? All brides are wives, but not all wives are brides…any longer? I like to think I’m a married woman who never was a bride, though I recognize that’s a reckoning for another time…) Alive, how I’ve loved giving blood: O-negative (but you’re so positive! ha!), universal donor, a stranger’s body hemorrhaging in the ER (no time to check their type, search for a match—get me three pints of O-Negative, stat!) The blood bank tells me my “donation” (euphemism, nicely placed) will be tested, then used within two days. Something I made with my body, through no special effort, no special skill, is serving a purpose without me, beyond me. (Think practically but also vocationally. I’m not there for the oversized t-shirt or the “fun-size” Frito-Lays. This is something I feel called to do.) So what about the body itself—anticipating its future status as corpse: I didn’t make this body, & I haven’t always been kind to it either. Once, long ago, I trashed the place & didn’t bother to pay the water bill. Even the lights were turned off for a while. But somehow my body forgave me, forgives me still. (The hard red scab is forgiveness. The green phase of the bruise forgiveness. The stunning white bone cloud a beatific form of forgiveness.) Put me back in the earth was once the party line for people like me. Now, perhaps, Give me a green funeral at sea. Let me decompose in peace among the coral. But what if a pulsing question of my life has been “How can I be of use?” Might I still be useful post-pulse, post-mortem? Are you Googling “What to do with a body after death?” right now because I am. (I Bing-ed it, too, just to balance the cyber-scales.) The Last Tangible Thing, that sole possession I hadn’t thought to bequeath—how might it be harvested, studied, used to teach—at the Mayo Clinic or the state university where I’ve spent my career. I didn’t pass down my genes, & anyone might pass on my art. (No posthumous pity purchases please!) But no matter what we make outside our bodies, how much or how little, to what glorious or ignominious ends, it doesn’t change what remains when we leave them—fittingly called (how does this only come to me now?) the remains. I find myself wanting to be useful after death, when the physicality that once answered to my name becomes the cenotaph of a history lodged elsewhere. (Think existentially, ephemerally.) Maybe the monument isn’t necessary after all. I don’t care where the “me” will be, only that it won’t be there, in that breathless cathedral, that basilica of organs & tissues & bones. In life, I have been urged to take more space, to resist the sexist imperative to winnow. In death, I have considered taking less space. (Perhaps aquamation?) But what of the space purposefully taken, the body deliberately given—the corpse as enduring caesura?

“What is posterity?”

 

The word itself is not beautiful—little irony of our language that vexes as it woos. And the adjective form, all five syllables, longest word in English for what’s attractive, beguiling, comely… So many synonyms, but in the end, everything boils down to A-B-C. “Elementary, dear reader,” & that, of course, a synonym for abecedarian. Back to beauty, though: I doubt we’re all gazing through the same looking glass. “…the beholder,” sure, though I haven’t just been watching with my one good eye. I’ve been studying Beauty all this time—assaying so as to essay? probing so as to poem? From 1994, a quote in my common book: “Sexy is much more subtle than that.” Lifetime was one kind of laboratory, open on weeknights from 9 to 11 PM. My mother devout, feet up on the couch, wielded the family remote. My father served Shastas before he reclined. My bathrobe doubled as my lab coat. In a film called Mortal Fear, Gregory Harrison signals to Joanna Kerns that the woman on the dance floor is being too obvious, trying too hard. Sexy isn’t pseudonym for Beauty exactly, but don’t they share an alma mater at least—classmates in the same yearbook? photos on the same page? Perhaps sexiness meant a kind of vibration. You felt it before you saw it, & you didn’t need to see it to know it was there. By these terms, Christ was quite sexy, sun-splashed & tunic-clad, straddling his noctilucent cloud. Now Blasphemy, of course, wasn’t beautiful—the nuns were very clear about that—but it had a certain bad-boy vibe (ribbed tank, tight abs, grease on his hands & flat on his back sliding under a car…) that some girls claimed could tug them like the tide. I didn’t catch the lyric, but its meaning landed just the same: “The chicks’ll cream for greased lightnin’!” Maybe not all of us, though, exactly. My great romance with Double Entendre. How I let Euphemism fly past first base, the heat between us sparking into second…e. e. cummings & his poem, “She being brand-new.” I couldn’t tell if I was the car or the driver. Now Beauty’s little sister is Pretty. She always tagged along to the skating rink & cinema, hoping someone would notice. (I did.) It was my task, nay my duty, to impersonate her. O, the crimping iron! O, the eyelash curler! O, the powder with its exaggerated puff! My mother said being Pretty would have to be enough since the leading role of Beautiful had already been cast. She dipped her comb in water, pronounced the part in my hair. But I cared more about parts of speech, you see, the way pretty itself was a double feature, a multi-valent modifier, if you will. (Were you pretty pretty, or were you really pretty?) Pretty could mean somewhat, could mean partly. Our language was slippery like that, like a body on a roller—& did you know that board is also called a creeper? Perhaps our language is a lady mechanic with long, thin hands, points on her shoulders, a blackberry vine tattooed around her torso. Woman as trellis. Woman as ladder I longed to climb. (Euphemisms, you see…they’re hot.) I knew who I liked to look at—girlish boys & boyish girls—everyone stretching from their ribs toward a fulcrum. Early on, the lure of hybrids, those invisible strings cinching my waist at the tolo, where, predictably, I was dancing alone. Then Lovely arrived on the scene, which made me wonder about the ways Beauty careened into Desire. (Or didn’t.) My co-workers all tittering about him, the lovely delivery man, so I nodded along. Some beauty is indisputable, elementary, after all. How Sharon turned to me, her cheeks aflame: “Oh! I didn’t realize that you could see that!” In my head, the swift retort, “I’m gay, not blind.” Instead, I flashed my pretty smile. How it thrills me when words pair up unexpectedly—people, too: each “pretty boy,” & better still, that fabled “handsome woman.” Think of the monikers we once called “unisex”—a man named Hilary (be still my heart!), girls named Max & Alex. The letter X in general, fine-tipped & branching, but also P, which has a certain feminine quality both beautiful & desirable to me. Enduring: my love story with our alphabet, my love story with a woman whose name pulses red as alpha, an A likewise at the start & end of it—Angela. How desire is recursive like that, the alphabet a slinky ouroboros like that. (Be still my heart!) Papaya our early code for love, a euphemism we coined before ever tasting the fruit. Then, when slicing open, we saw the woman’s body mirrored back. Beauty upon beauty, its pink pith seeded & ripe, a perfect visual echo.

“What is pulchritude?”

Julie Marie Wade’s forthcoming collections are Meditation 40: The Honesty Room (Pank Books, 2023), Fugue: An Aural History (Diagram/New Michigan Press, 2023), and Otherwise: Essays (Autumn House Press, 2023), selected by Lia Purpura for the 2022 Autumn House Nonfiction Book Prize. A winner of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, she teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and makes her home with Angie Griffin and their two cats in Dania Beach. 

Jill Moser

Laura Moriarty

from rapt glass (detail)

Which Walk 0

re:assemblance

“Take a walk”
—Yoko Ono, WALK PIECE

and look out
as the broken world

breaks again
drawn to bits (I am)

deranged           iota              jot

flakes                 of fixed

whatnot

mechanisms meant
to broach when and where

to find or feel
a finite set with infinite

limitations as when
feast, fetish, or metonymic

gesture connects a personal
system with reference

to civic locality as
streets’ vocal

versions of themselves,
when what is heard

is seen, gleaned,
recollected, and erected,

luck, self-
defined, becomes us,

bent into position feeling to find

beads           balls           brass           steel

nailed                      screwed

scaled up                          run out

resurrected, inwardly

directed to
arrange and play
as we (rapt)
are carried off,

untroubled by resemblance,
guiding principle, or epistemic

framework, though having those,
while making these directed

acts of storage strutted,
glutted, taken up, as I/we

reaching back
to owned devices,

feel free, imaginary,
and tactile as the shudder

of daily acquisition,
domestic, timebound,

vexed by practitioners,
whose practice

like ours,
a consummation,

is thrown up and out
as the poison

presence of each entrance
of nonlife into life

twists            loops                  moves

circles         spits         and splits

giving                                       into

walking while

compromised by things
aging in place

as matter hardened to its
constituents is what

we find when we amass and
detach the past of an object
from its fate creating
an elegy for each fact,

used or not, whose provenance,
always one of loss,

rejection, and subsequent
stooping to find (oneself) with

items grounded by chance, labor
or the erasure of same

becomes stuff subject
to words like reality

adding up
to what we want:

an engine of past time,
creation, and abstraction

whose apparatus
reflects the precision of

wrapped          glass

collapsed         threading         through

the fastness

of everything as everything
found or findable

resolves into action

 

from rapt glass

 

Which Walk 5

the maid real

“Old Woman, your eye searches the field like a scythe!”
—Robert Duncan, “The Structure of Rime VI”

like a sigh, permitted or not,
these visits to Mira Vista

Field            fair            farm            (or look see

place)            which            with

walking               later

renounces            renunciation

the better to incantate as
phrase after praise betrays
the visible day to the visible

night today singing what can you say,
moment by movement, or see

worried, wise, amazed—
heard, herded, heralded, crazed

by this old epithet, rule, and designation

of hags for which read old
women whose presence
absent to some,

purely physical to others, despite being where
and what they/I, are required to be, go, say,

and know            noting            how

dreamed of            mental            meeting

protocols in the form of songs and knowledge
combine the known with the read, said,
intoned, and suggested,

along with the berries there, also
red, thorns with which to be bled,
leave one stepping out attired

with gown, crown, and scythe
clearing what has died into

what is born by the poem of the mind
including words not me but mine

while I, menaced by remembered threats,
summon my ways and those of my actual

mother, Mae Belle Reynolds,
to push in and back out while
hatted, masked, cloaked, fraught

being with her (withered) wrought

where            belief            relief

knowing            & going            are brought

along with these steps at the feet of which lay

we, reconfigured into us, who
write what is read, said, and

displayed, resolving the “made place”
into the made real day

 

from rapt glass (sketch)

Which Walk 6

problem of reversible time

“. . . which am I?”
—Rumi, The Essential Rumi

who (exigene)
portends to redeem

exigencies of a woman
and man in a van when

our names meant light, knight, air, and ones who fly (are flown) when you,
Sufi, carpenter, botanist, and me, writer, waitress, artist of cards and
fortunes, later lose our clothes on the way to losing our minds and hearts
(mine) in a known place where written as played

a woman much withered, a maid
a maiden with a wand a handsome
maid, a white wand with a peacock of
solid gold on its tip

(we) submit
to the reversible fortunes

of muscle memory and the
illusive person in the poem

including types of knowing as when

The Land That Time Forgot
or trip into symbolic space

whose            trace            discloses

beauty            at intervals            as            (not)

lucid            eyes

of mind remain blind to the
inevitable arrangement’s

transformation of attitude,
and altitude calculable only from

the surface or search image
of a specific person

whose comparative anatomy
comes into play when the algorithm

leads us farther into the past—
but if this is the solution

please explain the bones
in the ghost story of the other
lover or the card games there.

Bring in Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale

and other extinction events.
It was crazy for anyone to try

to cross the Sierras in October.
What happens next as we

decohere among the hominins (despite
the abstraction, attraction, and object lessons)

is anybody’s guess.

 

untitled

Which Walk 7

what and who

A dark day finds
heart’s head hatted

and masked with crime
being read into its head

as descent into the local hell

means taking in the ashy
remains of everything with

each breath a reckoning, each step
the mistake of not sheltering in place

while            elsewhere            breath

taken            fills

the same head with fresh despair
of the deadly situation where seconds

become minutes then
centuries where the dead lay
with vast fires closing in

but not here or not yet as
trying for a semblance

of thought            as active            leveraged

expression            of fair

weather’s            familiar

talk while reassembling the same
everything in head’s heart

of later air clear for now

though nothing is better
except if it is when

kinds of crime rhyme
what is wrong (but present)

with what (and who) are gone

 

untitled

symmetry
  

Are there two lines because there are two feet, hands, eyes? Maybe. This walking and making is a process, a procession. When she called an earlier book Symmetry she meant to dismantle this concept with each gesture. Is this that? she wonders, but suspects it is not—as, falling endlessly forward, she moves through space like a sound or a bird. A need for trust occurs. Balance. Emptiness. You can’t think about every step, but you should, she worries. Situational awareness. A military term. A thing is exact. Or exactly not. Intentional. Intended. Once her project was something like courtly love but now she feels betrothed to her work.

The woman stares at herself in the mirror. She makes self-portraits less because of an interest in self than because she is her only model. She enjoys drawing her wrinkles because they add texture. Me and not me, she is simply a thoughtful arrangement of phrases, lines, and planes—scribbled hair.

—from Which Walks

Laura Moriarty was born in St. Paul, MN, and grew up in Cape Cod and Northern California. She attended the University of California at Berkeley. She was the Director of the American Poetry Archives at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University for many years. She has taught at Naropa University and Mills College. She was Deputy Director of Small Press Distribution for two decades. She won the Poetry Center Book Award in 1983, a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Award in Poetry in 1992, a New Langton Arts Award in Literature in 1998, and a Fund for Poetry grant in 2007. Her most recent book is Personal Volcano from Nightboat. Which Walks is forthcoming from Nightboat. She lives in Richmond, CA.

Andrew Levy

from The Real World

Everybody

A bunch of college students just banned the word Quidditch.

It sure pays to have an edge, all kinds of edges.

To broaden the horizon of what gets represented, let’s invent a new poem, a poem
That places itself between protagonist and readers.

Let’s set up a new planet of self-documentation. The living body in the public soul.

I’ll see you in a few.

Okay, the flowers were delivered.

The DOW is down 600-and-something points.

I gave a check for ten million to my friend who has been without any means of existence.

You, on the other hand, must not look in that direction or you will turn into a pillar of salt.

On the inside salt will finger the perp with an extra syllable until daylight.

Pepper walks through the palace and easily abides in the nervous system.

There are no laws
When you need one.

Slow Down

To broaden the horizon of what gets represented, let’s invent a new poem.

I’ll see you in 4.5 billion light years.

Protagonist and readers walk through palaces, easily abide. Between new planets
Of self-documentation, the public slips and slides.

Sous vide octopus, fava lentil, chives green oil, black garlic caviar.
Teams are required to moussaka by the gender rule.

Intersectionals vanish in pleats derived from the vanquished.

Cauliflower tiramisu turns my stomach sour. Many people peter out in silence
the less poetic everybody becomes. Before they split the center of innocence communes,
It cannot be saved. A mighty pre-existing chaos ends.

Meanwhile, Moon Knight’s birthright follows upon complexities and denials.
As we’ve said, what’s left? The escaping hero fumbles.

Slow ships don’t stand a chance.
The heart attacks go crazy.

At Land’s End

Who knows what vicarious impulses my sympathy holds. The next
Oscillation, abyss or chasm.

Paradigms or disguises intent as a draft of Buddha.

Never one-sided metaphors like a little door swing open the
Imagination and the carnage in this country, the before or behind,
The ascendancy of being so young and delinquent.

The curve behind the rails, astral straws, the distinguished.

The nature of Nature to dispel the path the horizon
Is counterpoint to & survive.

My own spirit observes the indifferent, the debris of a good atrocity.
Even criminal libel has economic muscle, a facile positioning of the past.
Favorite target of the purple membrane, repeating again and again.

Squeezing tales through a sense of shame. Ready to spring
An invincible eye. Ready to commit any crime.

Dark irony, Self-flagellating Introspection

Manic obsessiveness, and unapologetic moral perversity
Cackles from every age.

I’m trying to control my emotions.

(Right now?

Yeah…)

To console and compensate somehow, any how, the injuries.
That old helpless rage at it all.

From memory from shadows this kind of pain.

The indigestible or pleasing. What do you see?

Lofty clouds imprecisely printed. Graspability. Jubilantly erudite
Ruthlessness. Impertinent demands. Blatant disgracefulnesses.

The tongue doesn’t have a cough.

An absence of language on the part of my mother.
Continue to hold true.

A Certain Unfinishedness

Wide open.

An end to traditionally patriarchal society as standing next to people.

To make special impressions the spurs transposed into heaven.
I want to thank you and the mouth called ink on the paper of my behavior
Whose name is clearly less uniform.

Unimaginable insincere resistances require instructing.

Differences shrink the contemplative child. We must begin at the top,
Through the encroaching dark like someone who’s sure sparks have long sense talked,
Whose platform reachable by rope ladder feels blessed—into the branches palm
Playing sleep pounding metabolites a snare.

What have you done before? Turned to Turkish coffee? People mistake
Mastery for someone else? Nonhuman intellectual property?

The other side of an opposable thumb.

 

Blushing, beaming. Doing nothing until they do.

Nicked

I have been someone, this is what I have become.

We should be able to hear all the voices coming in and those going out. What is inevitable
And irresistant. Ubiquitous and sacred.

Nobody destroys this possibility and nobody tolerates its destruction. And yet, from his writing desk,
Disenchantment inhabits the subject. Its rigorous architectural elastic symptom.

Cellular segments feel adequate and more fragile. Its limit is a form of appropriation
Between classes. The teacher lays too heavy a hand.

Nothing need belong to me or to the end.

The idea we have is new enough. Its ambiguity and alibi does not preexist, nor does
Debt and time, a promissory glitter of what was tried and kept apart.

Perhaps not.

Gunmen break open
An alien distance.

The world’s outside and below.

Andrew Levy is the author of Artifice in the Calm Damages (Chax Press, 2021), Don’t Forget to Breathe (Chax Press), Nothing Is in Here (EOAGH; novella), and twelve other collections of poetry and prose. His work has appeared in numerous American and international magazines and anthologies, including Poetics-for-the-More-than-Human-World – An Anthology of Poetry & Commentary; The Canary Islands Connection – 60 Contemporary American Poets; and Resist Much, Obey Little – Inaugural Poems to The Resistance. Levy’s writing works on the intersections of class and the ecology of commerce, and experimental music and the digitalization of freedom. A drummer, he works in collaboration with musicians and writers on readings and performances.

Francesco Levato

from SCARLET

Margot
Barcode, Notepad, Hospital Bracelet
Hell-On
Caffè Macchiato, Cloth Napkin
Three Neck Distilling Flask
Flag on Pole, Inert
Artist’s Statement

 

SCARLET began as a digital visual/poetic meditation on the fractured state of psyche induced by extended social isolation under COVID-19 lockdown. The project has since evolved to document the social disruption of the pandemic as we move through its various mutations and surges.

The digital/visual poems are created through erasure of the novel The Scarlet Plague collaged with glitched imagery from everyday life during the pandemic. The titles of poems in the series are then derived from objects contained in each glitched still life.

Glitching is a technique that introduces errors into the code of a digital file or stream that distorts its presentation. The error-induced fracturing of images in SCARLET is intended to defamiliarize everyday objects and surroundings to reflect the psyche under the constant stress of the pandemic.

The Scarlet Plague is a post-apocalyptic novel by Jack London, published in 1912, set in California during the year 2073, after the world’s population is decimated by an uncontrollable pandemic.

Francesco Levato is a poet, translator, and new media artist. Recent books include SCARLET (forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil in 2023); Arsenal/Sin DocumentosEndless, Beautiful, Exact; and Elegy for Dead Languages. He holds an MFA in Poetry, a PhD in English Studies, and is an Associate Professor of Literature & Writing Studies at California State University San Marcos.

Jean Kane

Unmasked Hours

What can you do but run through them? Run around the tar lot while the squirrel sits nick-nicks its tail over live wires. Run while oblong leaves stalk. Run while the wind thrills, and a car comes to the lot for no reason and parks. Flick your chin over your shoulder, check, the nick-nick of the squirrel tail over the power, brush, the wind surge at your throat; the car sits with blind eyes. Pit panic. Check. No door wings out. Not yet.

The flick of clouds assigns nothing to you. Spells nothing. Haul over the clobbering earth. Flick. Surge. Run. Deep pockets turn inside out against the slight glow. Saints incline in woody trunks, or something like their desire. They whistle. The car moves, contained, drifting off, not intentioned at you. Nick-nick. A whst. One fibrous headless stalk. Funnels underneath eat into elements, under quick, heeled clouds.

Abortifacients: One Skewed History

The packet women didn’t traffic in tragedy. Their hides no hide. Before then, the lizard-tongued laughed inside tunnels, relieved that they had selected their own eggs. They discarded some and wrapped themselves around others. Always they bled, sometimes too much. None of them preached. Everyone had a plan to hatch. Needles, paper horns, and angled packets, sometimes delivered by mail.

Transi Tomb

I try to sleep. When the lid goes down, in the dark everywhere, I stumble. Stacks of boxes make a throat to enter. I don’t.

I flick the TV on instead to while away. Drop off. Get out. But it’s “Golden Oldies,” gumming funds of yesteryear. The voices croon in pity for my father, who couldn’t sleep without the jaggering AM radio. Cranks raged away remotely. More soothing than the dark swallow all alone. Wide snore down the hall where I lie, bunked. The box calls back.

“Give ’im the hook,” someone would finally say, and laugh. Now nothing evicts early, much less the start.

Unclench

What would it be to shed my layers, my peasants’ clothing, my tatters of fleece, my wound cotton? Not to be naked but to reach skin not shaved or scarred, and emerge? Would the sky know? Would my surfaces moisten?

I would float walking under a bank of air. I would soothe knots. I would hanker for nothing, and tubers would envy me. Blouses of air wend away in full campaign. Open and open without expulsion into the blue over bare trees.

Would graves empty? Would campaigns seal? The army might not pursue me because I’m not bound and not fleeing. I will have sloughed off hard patches, relaxed the warps underneath, down to the pouches where no thoughts go but only water and pulse. Kinless invertebrate, will I recognize myself coatless, unknotted, unbroken, warm, without concept, unregretted and unmapped, still here.

Jean Kane’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including Ignatian Literary Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, American Short Fiction online, South Dakota Review, Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, 3:AM, Hotel Amerika, Euphony Journal, Fogged Clarity, Word For/Word, and Doubly Mad. Her book of poems, Make Me, was published by Otis Nebula in 2014. She is a recipient of the Otis Nebula First Book Award, and she was nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize by Hole in the Head Review.

Jean is a professor of English and women’s studies at Vassar College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature and Art History from Indiana University, a master’s degree in English and creative writing from Stanford University, and a PhD in English from the University of Virginia. She has attended the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference and has been to the AWP on multiple occasions. Jean also enjoys drawing and frequent visits to her family back home in Indiana.

Rahana K. Ismail

Burn on my Mother’s Forearm

A moth alights on the clabbered cloudlet skin.
Brown sleep sprawled on wings, an embracing

moveableness in holding on still, a cotton-wooled
confession smudging the edges, all the leaflets I killed.

Or a browned dream she has no buzz-alarms for. A feathering
of child-earth tree-full green, never seen by her for the rill

to fill and well to fill from. A rush: wing-brush of steam.
The coal clunk, the revolutions to reach home. Prayers

her capillaries will hymn up with in falls to come. Jumbled
glyphs of an answer she had missed, Anatomy paper

next day each day. The slow burn. ‘Mothling’ changing shape
changing hands. You came from the mountains, we say, her

family, we all tan, and her skin snow, a lie, we know,
she lights up, her bones battling the coughing cooker and

the aluminium wok in martial rage, her eye-rolls
ventriloquizing genealogy across geography. This, I sense, is where

it all takes place, yet it’s not the scene, just the place. The moth
clings on to her fluttering frame, drinking dregs drinking

dregs. Sad pawprints of the mongoose before he dies in
the night-after dream. A new moth on a new day-tiffin

of yellowed rice and cabbage on her daisied skin.

Crochet

Monsoon girled around to house her body, her long fingers drizzling to position. My grandmother taught me how to crochet. Slip knot. Having the amaranth yarn make the first hole is to open another hole another hole another hole. Drops soldier to a chain at the long-lashed eaves I don’t carry a pail to. Carrying loss is to open loss like a package: a snarl of yarn or a window you climb over when the bars fall away, the room you hear the ill

-oiled swing of a sewing machine, the foot treadle groaning a rust-ridden elegy. To be unable to search for my sea-glass quietude in the red-oxide drone. The way the bamboo cane chairs my skin in time-traceries. Drugged in desperation, the yarn breaststroking to safety—there is a kind of wide-eyed safety in distance, or so the thought, in moving away from initiality—yarn over, yarn through, yarn over, yarn through. But the truth that moving away can only be moving closer. Crocheting is

circling back to the first hole over and monsoon over. She taught me to celebrate absence by creating a whorl around it. Chingam-Kanni-Thulam-Vrischikam-Dhanu-Makaram-Kumbham-Meenam-Medam-Edavam-Mithunam-Karkadakam.

* Chingam-Kanni-Thulam-Vrischikam-Dhanu-Makaram-Kumbham-Meenam-Medam-Edavam-Mithunam-Karkadakam: months in Malayalam calendar

Sorrow Selkies her Bird-clothes

Sparrow prophesies
a thicket
of falls.

Winds lisp. Arrow
oozes in a creosote
of sandstorm.

Knitting lawns
into sails, a sun or a
spar. Row
of ships usurping
nameplates.

Inhered in itself
a recital
of springs par rowen-
berries.

Tussor rows
cupboards hid
among clematis
sachet.

The lifer, the cen-
sor rowelled
into saying.

Oars or rowlock
which one to
forgo.

In singing,
sorrow
selkies her
bird-clothes.

Rahana K. Ismail is a poet and doctor from Kozhikode, Kerala. Her chapbook Newtness was released by Yavanika Press in 2022. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, Penn Review, Usawa Literary Review, Alchemy Spoon, nether Quarterly, Contemporary Haibun Online, Aainanagar, Aleph Review, Chakkar, Alipore Post, Last Leaves, Io Literary Journal (Refractions), Paradoxlit, Farmer-ish, Stone of Madness, Foxglove, Hakara, Qissa, Verse of Silence, Pine Cone Review, and elsewhere. 

Dennis Hinrichsen

[I Thought My Marauding Days Were Over]

“Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals
threaten humanity”
—Erin Brockovich, The Guardian (March 18, 2021)

Björk sings to keep me awake // to let me know I belong beneath
the lava field the sky is now—so many hot orange zones—I feel I am
besieged by end times // a toxic forever chemical kind of feeling
I have touched so much product since I’ve arisen I must’ve eaten
some harm down to the groin where sperm is dying—
I’ve had that cancer—the chords are cut—still—the reactor burns—I
am sarcophagus // but I don’t worry the half-life because they are better
than plutonium and Jesus—the fluoropolymers—they do not break
down // I ingest by pan (dearest Teflon™) // by clothing and pizza box //
—O dear beautiful lonely alternate selves—O dying human race—
I learned today we are nearly one half Viking so I know we still maraud
interior coasts of the body because we are dressed for it—
the gold there ours (always)—by liver—by blood—by thyroid—
our horned and fearless daring burning away in snowflake Vahallas

[be] [held]

—had my ass pinched in Ybor City once—it was Mardi

Gras—the other one—but still a question lingered—was I body delectable?
a cinematic lie because in the film of this (the poem) it won’t be me wearing

those camo cargo pants—it won’t be my hair—linen shirt rolled sloppily
at the sleeves—but someone taller tanner blonder—modestly

ripped—with perfect teeth
(my life so boring I have to put it in parentheses

to get it right—going out for milk—playing hide-n-seek with the cat
who is dead now these last four years—I don’t even purr anymore

at what I know is not her shadow but an orphan sock—the real motif
indicating deadening time—the Dalí corrosive

body can tell you that—body with its failing gridwork—body just another
burning shell—I can’t stand this anymore—this being alone—

invisible—untouched—so—cut!—next scene…)
camo pants again—

desert sand—I’m in New York City now—on a blocked-off street
as Gay Pride motors by—gym shorts and blasting Harleys—

when one of the Colombian dancers breaks free as if from a flock
of scarlet macaws and runs to where I’m standing—

cinéma vérité this time—
Naked City vibe—I had the ass I had the stance—and touches my arm then puts

his lips—I was beheld—to this pliant cheek

[mosaic] [Self-portrait as Whitman’s 29th Bather] [with Killing Clothes and a Hammer]

sees world—desires world—that’s the substrate vector—why
deny it // beautiful boy bodies—like all things—glistening
with wet // the little streams all over their skin
just as easily the lithe sheer of waists—sledge
and massive arms—our looking too then a hammering //
we environ the anvil—hand and brain wanting it all—
the repartee and titillations—cloud scuff—purr
of river // the secular spiritual foreplay descending—
trembling—being acted upon // this body (debris)
a mosaic (I am dying)—white belly open to unswept floor //
here—the last frenetic eating—at time—and at the edges
of time—the systemic failures—hunger and money // there—
my richness defined by what I so casually (carelessly)
throw toward you—world—the adored—throwing this love away

[called back]

inscription on E.D.’s grave

“Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Could Meet its Doom
within 3 Years,” by Mindy Weisberger (Space.com)

I’m taking a piss in a·mrst near Dickinson’s grave—maybe Concord—
Thoreau’s—I can’t recall (we put in there once—Ripple and I—we were
canoeing—and irrigated some corn)—and if this is just the brain
in meltdown—another functional nightmare—it’s okay—you have to kill
all the gods to keep on moving—even if it’s just yourself—your super power
metaphysical rage with nowhere to go so it just squats inside the minutes
where dark matter really resides—mad eyes some days—wild hair
calling you forth // —O Barber-gods where are you now to trim and groom me
so I can be pretty again—a magnetic field finally with somewhere to go—
a thing still to be—even if it’s just a river in Massachusetts—that I can
believe in—or a sky with jets still in it—there’s a military base nearby—we’re
walking—Ripple and I—always walking—letting sounds wash over us—winged
knives laser and glide—until one of us has to piss again—sense of what is glacial
in us—our reconnaissance—dear friends—coming your way—letting go

[readymade] [With an iPhone in It and Two
or Three Plums]

lonely I am reading phone—lonely I will be—these nickel reels
that thrill as they unspool—

wishing I was there (I am not)—
wishing I had drink in hand (I do not)—

spooning out an avocado—heating beans—I am preparing
lunch now—last night’s dishes stacked—

ticking like a readymade
so that as I retrieve a fork it is an exercise in terror (domestic)

I set against this other terror—complicity—
shirt Sri Lankan—pants Vietnamese—

the one or two women
from among the millions toiling on my behalf

muttering names under their
breath—harsh

names—mine again—their sweat and tears
falling into the fabrics (I love buying shirts)—

smell of their hands…
I am squeezing a wedge of lime now—grating garlic.

There is a moment I would like
to share—it is a memory—

initially mine—but now surveilled—consumed.
It concerns a friend I love—he is failing—

death is in him like a leaf—or paddle into a river—
one heron angling crosswise.

He saw this once—shallows to deeper shallows—
and was moved by it—

and so I will pause here now (hearing voices) (reliving joy)—
obliterating all my coolness

the piecework bits of my barely manageable brand.

I know—laughable—but I do make choices—possess
consciousness—I get dressed

in the morning—desire touch…

screenshot— I am walking now

with avocado waste to backyard compost—building soil.
I will throw some clippings on it.

I must be godly mixing earth and spirit—
micro arcs in the metaphysical wheel—

the hammering tongues of all the worms (i.e., the truer gods)
just another bag of hammers—blind—

as text is blind—they cannot see through to me—
I am lure—I am rafter and nail—

I POST—husk of light eating light

in digital self-obituary—
body like a shingle pegged to a falling down wall of time—spirit

in the analog flux of it—this stroll to the house—muttering
words at a tree—repeating them later—they have

resonance—they are like plums in the mouth—plums spirit will never share

 

Dennis Hinrichsen’s tenth book of poetry, Flesh-plastique, will appear from Green Linden Press in March 2023. His awards include the Wishing Jewel Prize from Green Linden Press for schema geometrica, as well as the Grid, Michael Waters, Tampa, Field, and Akron Poetry Prizes for earlier collections. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, where he served as the area’s first Poet Laureate.

Sue Havens

—click on any image to enlarge—

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Artist’s Statement

 

My interdisciplinary practice and unconventional approach, embodied in abstract painting, sculpture, and installation, are inspired by the spectacular and mundane of the world’s visual vernacular as revealed in my surrounding environments. These disparate influences — such as the lights on amusement park rides at the state fair, dotted sidewalk pavers, painted lines in parking lots, thrift store fabrics, cracked pavement, Turkish kilims, supermarket packaging, miniature golf architecture, and tree bark — are bolstered by my ongoing investigation of flatness, dimensionality, color, and pattern within painting and sculpture. I create new forms by culling references from the areas I live, the places I travel, and the objects and ephemera I collect so that content might be remembered, discovered, and felt.

Sue Havens (born 1972 in Rochester, New York) is an artist based in New York and Tampa. Havens received her BFA in Art from The Cooper Union for The Advancement of Science and Art in 1995, and her MFA in painting from The Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in 2003. Havens is a 2008 Fellowship recipient in Painting from The New York Foundation for the Arts and a recipient of the 2017 McKnight Junior Faculty Development Fellowship. She is currently an assistant Professor of Art at The University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.

 

Havens has exhibited internationally and nationally in venues such as The Knockdown Center in New York, Galerie Nord in Berlin, The Museum of Drawings in Laholm, Sweden, The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV, Regina Rex, Underdonk, The Switzer Gallery at Pensacola State, Jeff Bailey, PS 122, Postmasters, Frederich Petzel, Art in General, Momenta Art, Sara Meltzer, OK Harris, Pierogi, The Tampa Museum of Art, and Mindy Solomon in Miami among many others. Havens authored, designed and illustrated the book Make Your Own Toys (2010). Her work was featured in Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, New American Painting Magazine, the Korean International Ceramic Biennale.

Peter Gurnis

from Light’s Glare

The woman who works at the Post Office told me that spring is almost here.
I told her, I hadn’t noticed. I’ve looked at the lilac buds, the twig-buds.
I said to the woman at the Post Office. I pay attention to lilacs, and such-like native fruit.
I pay attention to the birds. I keep count of the days by marking them off with a pencil.
And yet, nothing has changed. And then she said that the ice is almost gone.
She said the winter is about to vanish. It’s about to vanish out of sight.
You ought to pay attention, she said. You ought to pay attention to the signs.
But where are the geese? Where are the noisy geese?
He walked out to the woods. Then she locked the kitchen door.
He shut the gate as if to keep the others out, and never said a thing. In the first place,
she left the door ajar. In the first place, she could not sleep at night.
What if you could only think of the name for a river by going on a walk?
What if you could only think about a river by falling into sleep?
Say what you will about last Thursday’s freakish blizzard.
We found old names in a catalog of apples
(dried leaves, bare trees).

*

The sentence ought to be hanging from a nail.
After pushing his wife out a window, opprobrious speech.
In theory: our domestic life, especially for those at sea.

The stuffing in my head, broken bones:
what kills rats and snakes.

Excellent for jaundice.
If eaten raw, it resists drunkenness.
Any gnawing of the belly, hiccoughs, urine, coughs.
I was half-thinking about bog iron, or the noise coming out of a pond,

for instance.

Henry wandered like a cloud (an oak tree, a pile of bricks).
For those who lost their ears in a blizzard, or by walking in extremis.
It says that our rivers shall be opened by April 20th for alewives and shad.
Look up into a chimney (and see stars),
perhaps that is the lost definition of refuge: to seek shelter in a chimney,
to hide inside. And thus, escape the ambuscade.

*

Increase Mather said to his wife.
To every seed its own body (1 Corinthians 15.38).
Being so curiously wrought that He twists into shape a firmament:
an Exhortation / out of a Crumbling book: loose at the hinges.
Whosoever designedly and by any pretense,
privy or false token.
Nota Bene: because I had built a house on a cake of ice.
Before I knew any of the facts. Kisses are exceedingly sweet amongst friends.
Or else, to fly away (with a bounce or Crack).
And thus, running westerly into the swamp at the end of Little Flag meadow,
or else by going toward the east, where you will find a pile of stones at the top of Bare Hill,
on the other side of Andover. Yesterday, or the day after that, a constable came to the door
with a summons issued by the Court of Oyer and Terminer:
Its vertue doth lye in the heart, communicated by the heart, to the Pith of a tree,
and thru the [pith] to the stone inside of an open fruit,
namely in its juicy heart.

*

The child hath grievous fits.
And at Stonington an Indian came to the door. With a Book of ecclesiastical rags.
Those who are Righteous ought not to be frightened by the discourse of a coiled rope.
What kind of evidence is a handful of feathers coming out of a loving mouth?
After I locked the door to the house and climbed into bed.
After she said what she said to the others. About the time
I found Bridget in the orchard with a brindled cow. The child coughed up a handful of soot.
Indeed, I saw her crawl out of a hole. After I had locked the door to the orchard.
And Deliverance Hobbs reached out of the dark. The thing spoke plainly.
About how to insure against the loss of any fragrant vine. For example:
once he found a vacancy in the distance, which is incontrovertible proof.
Upon hearing the news, they cried, dreadful, dreadful.
At which our ears doth tingle. So an apricock [stone] brings forth a plum,
yea the seeds of an apple bring forth a thousand trees.
And the Capitalist, like a cormorant, or an indefatigable lynx.
Invisible Furies.
*

This is but a speculation.
If you follow the old turnpike to Framingham
on the back of an ox, or decide to stay in bed on a sunny day.
Think of what needs to be done: pruning the apple tree, nailing down the roof.
He walked out of the house, thinking about a wooden boat (pink azaleas, days of dreary rain).
My wife says that I am querulous. She says, a brilliantly amorphous story!
And worries about the traffic inside of my head.
Yesterday, I felt like a wasp nest.
Yesterday, I sat in my chair and tried to
imagine what goes on inside of the hive. I said to my wife,
think of a swarming hive as a brain, hanging from an imaginary branch.
And today, I don’t know why: that blue teapot. For example, once
I saw a tanager being eaten by a hawk. And in the evening, he nailed on the wall:
a landscape of greenish yellow, dark blues and black.
While his wife watched from a chair.
And the cat slept.

Peter Gurnis lives in Tenants Harbor, Maine. In 1987, Burning Deck Press published The Body of Liberties. More recently, Antony Barnett printed “The Admiralty Prize” in his magazine Snow Lit Review (#5).