About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.

Joan Tanner

—click on any image to enlarge—


Artist’s Statement

I am interested in encounters suggesting the fragile necessity of linkage inherent to art making.

Relishing in connections as well as contradictions generated by revising order where conflict becomes compelling, and solutions are deferred.

My work began in painting which I pursued until the early 90s. Then a significant change evolved from an intentional pursuit to take things apart and rebuild noting what needed another identity.

This shift began to disperse my attention to investigating sequence as an inevitable discourse of disruption and misdirection. Displacement being a persistent offering.

Born in 1935 in Indianapolis, Joan Tanner has lived in Southern California since the mid-1960s. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1957 and began her career as a painter. She has been consistently exhibiting her paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and site-specific installations since 1968. Tanner maintains a vigorous studio practice somewhat akin to a laboratory and is inspired by spatial contradictions, archetypal geometric forms and raw materials. Her work is held in numerous private and corporate collections and in the following public collections: The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Special Collections; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Harvard University, Houghton Library, Department of Printing and Graphics, Cambridge, Massachusetts; New York Public Library, Spencer Collection, New York City, NY; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky; and Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California. Over the years, Tanner has been a visiting lecturer at the University of California–Santa Barbara, Ohio University in Athens, Illinois State University at Normal, and an artist-in-residence at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Sarah J. Sloat

Being Busy
Empty My Chest

Sarah J. Sloat is the author of Hotel Almighty, a collection a visual poetry published in 2020 by Sarabande Books. Born in New Jersey, Sarah has lived for many years in Europe, where she works in news. Her poems, prose and collage have appeared in The Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, Sixth Finch and elsewhere. You can keep up with her at sarahjsloat.com, on Twitter at @SJSloat and on Instagram at @sjane30.

Marvin Shackelford


When the waters receded we saw the statuary of those who came before. Their rounded helms and long hair appeared ahead of square stone shoulders, robes and armor, the pedestals bearing names in half-recognizable script. They stared grimly at us. The deep bay had swallowed them, grown murky with years of commerce, and kept them hidden. We didn’t swim there, didn’t fish unless we had to, grew ill if we ate our catch. We crossed the hills to other, quieter waters, knew the surrounding lands better than the sea. We weren’t the warrior sons and priestesses’ daughters who took this place by force and sealed it in stone. We were a disappointment. Among the paving stones and marble fixtures our fathers preached of gods forgotten, debts owed and paid, and our mothers wept for children to keep them in their dotage. To throw oneself unknowing into the void, they promised, held the greatest riches. They began to step down from their plinths and pillars, knees stiff and breaking, and fell into their own shadow. Sometimes it takes starting over, they whispered. Storms bring fresh water, and blood runs freely over old roots. Disaster presages glory. All about us the world rose and darkened. We wanted to believe them.

The Deep Threatened

In room seven of the ER a teenage girl screamed red-faced at a man—too old, scruffily bearded, to be a boyfriend but too young to be her father—who showed no signs of wakefulness. In six a man in tribal regalia stood alone, face painted, and the overhead lamp, that elbowed device in place for surgeons or nurses or whoever worked mightily in times of need, threw his shadow across the wall in the shape of a bird, a phoenix or dragon or something else built of smoke and fire, of hope and loss.

The door to five was closed, locked, but someone the other side bleated like a sheep. In four a woman lay snoring loudly, a rhythm to her breath suggesting the tremulous ringtone of an older phone. The boy in room three sat bare-chested and ate slices of pear, apple, grapes and cherries, from a white-lidded container. The nurses spoke quietly of an infestation, roaches or spiders, something legged and unseen in cluttered space.

In two the curtain was pulled tightly around the bed. A woman sat just outside it, a large book that might have been a Bible spread-eagled on her lap, and reapplied her lipstick. She blotted her mouth on the rim of a coffee cup and turned to stare into the hallway. She didn’t speak.

One lay empty. A custodian worked to remove a broken clock from the wall, its glass blackened and smoky as though it had suffered a sudden surge of power, or been struck by lightning.

And there at the entrance you shucked rainwater from your pink umbrella. The fountains of the deep threatened to swallow you. The parking lot filled with men beating at the side of our ark, all the sinners of every life I’ve lived seeking shelter from the night. I asked if you were sure we were doing the right thing, if it was necessary, if in the morning we’d look back and say, Well done, well done. You didn’t answer. You handed me your coat and walked into the far-away lights of the emergency-room hallway. You walked against the arrows painted up and down the shiny linoleum. You walked until you disappeared in a storm of scrubs and cords, carbon forms and diagnoses and promises, wise men and laughter, and I waited.

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

The third living pope declares himself without smoke or ceremony in Palestine, Texas. Enough is enough, he says. Suffer the little ones no more. He was a Baptist coming in, but no one minds. He begins to bind on earth what he expects of Heaven: Communion drops to every fifth Sunday and baptisms to confessions of faith, but the line on divorce stays about the same. The Sunday-school teachers and ladies in the nursery keep a very neat signup sheet and travel in pairs. He ordains deacons and elders with wives and families, and they all carry guns. They pray without repetitions around a folding table on Wednesday nights and on Thursday go to the stockyard. Fridays they eat catfish and attend high-school football games. They watch from deep in the stands. We’re looking good, they say. Awful good.

The third living pope drawls out Hebrew names, and his prayers carry a twang. Occasionally he wonders aloud what the keys he’s taken hold from Saint Peter are actually supposed to start. He pictures Heaven like a cherry-red Mustang and Hell its fuel tank, launched into the backseat when it’s struck just right. He carries quite a few thoughts about that false white horse that’s coming, its rider and overall towing power. He reinstitutes excommunication and inquisitions the flock, the church discipline let slide so long. He puts his foot on down, but not everyone’s convinced. A few folks try out the Lutherans, some give the Methodists or Presbyterians a look, but mostly they just quit church altogether.

The third living pope promises all will be well. He preaches on Sundays, morning and night, at volumes alternating between calm and angry. He says who needs Latin when you’ve got the King’s good English. He says to watch anybody with a crystal cathedral or a Cadillac or too crooked a smile, but he likes to lay on hands and anoint with oil. There’s a time and a place for the washing of feet. He starts growing a beard. Once the cameras fall away and the letters of rebuke, the calls to cease and desist, peter out, he spends more time at home. His wife bakes cornbread and beans and says maybe tomorrow a roast. He wears out his Bible, fills it with fresh ink drawing the line leading from him back to Christ. It’s shorter than anybody thinks. At night he calls his children and tells those that answer to watch the blood, follow it close. Perilous creatures unnumbered roam this earth, he says. The lion and thief come. At least we’re better than that, he tells them. We’re better than that.

Marvin Shackelford is the author of a collection of poems, Endless Building, and a couple volumes of stories and flash forthcoming from Alternating Current Press and Red Bird Chapbooks. His work has, or soon will have, appeared in The Kenyon Review, West Branch, MoonPark Review, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. He resides, quietly, in Southern Middle Tennessee.

Nathaniel Rosenthalis

Self-Portrait as Works and Days

Kissing you
was like tending a tiny
desktop garden
of fake succulents.
I took a photo.

Self-Portrait as Prey

you want me to
fold in half, arms
behind my back
while I act
like I like you
liking that 

Self-Portrait as Imaginary Enemy

Was or wasn’t
that not you
in a seersucker suit
with the
underarm stains
I saw each time
you lifted a hand
to offer me
that saltshaker? 

Self-Portrait as Shovel

Take me back.
What’d dirty you
falls through my head.
You lifted me.
Bent over
to put me in and over
the earth. The
I don’t own this yard. 

Self-Portrait in Stadium

I love sports.
One day the lead player, though, he
As if on my behalf.
Now I’m in this sportsy state.
I can explain:
“Sports shouldn’t be
the art of some
individuals, without
being a tacit act
-ivity and universe of

Self-Portrait as Little Rote Exercise

I pick a fossil up and it is
replaced by a
Not just ice:
I run over ice
I slip
I slip to run this past
past you.
Love you.

Nathaniel Rosenthalis’s recent poems can be found in Chicago Review and Lana Turner. He is the author of the forthcoming chapbook 24 HOUR AIR (PANK, 2021). He lives and works in New York City.

Max Ridge

To the Tones of Moss

Grains green up
and the ewe doddles
probably. Upon inspection,
summer’s posture is as culpable

as the gun-runner,
who slinks between massifs and crags.
There are times fit for leisure
homespun dull and neighborly

times. Then there is the present,
where careful heroes sit waiting
for photographs to tint.
Each summer may know the other

in the way ghosts do:
few details, aside from
the bobbing knee.
Either play the old horn or sing.

That’s the shanty, and
that’s the turncoat
who made the check out
to scandal and personality,

revealing as he did,
as he funded the error,
the bloodied cuticles.
Time versus time.

Things would happen to me

and the trail would go cold
where footprints
became handprints became nothing

Wind blow thee west
the stir will slake
the hot body

Weird: the ensemble
prose, which brought
bright colors

a day
wouldn’t cut it
not ten

the windows go from
the floor to the ceiling
straight to the bookcase

to the bats of the eye
and the glint if
the rhombus was indeed your eye.

Half mettle and half
swoon, equal parts
honest and bleach

how funny
would it be
if you hustled

down deep to the center
of the condition
with the speed

of a once-sleeping valet
or a businessman
returning for

the wallet. Set
the montage
to water.

Hello, Caesura

We need not be perfect.
I, for one, gave up good
in August, when life’s rolling boil
gave way, when something scuttled
beneath the moist sand. The
leftover milt finding the lakebed,
something behind my mind pulling
grey milt to the bottom. Reproductive
movements, ancestral movements.
It was August when light occasionally designed
to frustrate the brack, when
I resigned to a desire that
wasn’t mine. That desire being
something with its own physiology
the way a welt wells up,
the way a glance whips back,
becomes a thought.
When I love someone I want to give them everything.
I give them everything in the wrong order,
or allow it all at once. That
is how I beach the thing, with provocative
passes at the truth. With
interpretation, impatient warmth.
We should talk about tomorrow.
Before bed I’ll reserve a few
moments to polish the
barrel of my fear.

Max Ridge is a writer from New York. He is currently a PhD student at Princeton University’s Politics Department. His poetry has appeared in Dovecote Magazine, Hoxie Gorge Review, and Foothill Journal. He was a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom.

Rebecca Pyle

Cartoon of Goodness

She ran a service called Holding You Close. You didn’t know who was going to come to her house, you didn’t know who at all they would be. They were people who admitted they needed someone to hold them close. Some of them asked if there were men available to hold them close and she referred them to Brosnan. Brosnan would hold people close. Brosnan was a sort of god of kindness. He always stayed distant from everyone as he should, of course, and he was also constantly, constantly, cheerful, as she should be: but she tended to moroseness. She was holding strangers, but to her, they were a someone else, whom she held for half an hour; or for fifteen minutes, if they were really budgetary, or frightened about being close.

She was married, and had three children, all in school; she had a husband, who was a good employee and always being promoted, in the aerospace industry. Thus his job was a mystery. Why did anyone want to do anything in outer space? Outer space just wanted to kill you. It would kill you somehow, was the law of averages. Unless you had extreme backing, extreme luck, extreme in-the-right-place at-the-right-time luck.

She thought of the holding bed as a place that was home base, to which frightened almost-astronauts returned. When you were in your mother’s womb you were an astronaut, really, tethered by that line to your mother; when you were dying, you were the astronaut letting go of the space station, its meals, and its comforts: you were drifting off forever, and others would take your place.

She kept the sheets and blankets very sweetly laundered. That was part of her job, that they be unusually sweet, not cruelly sweet, as hotel linens were, over-laundered at the hotel. She put sweet orange oil in the rinse. Something to make her clients feel new.

Most of them, of course, were men. They were men who needed to feel safe. They had come to this big city, Seattle, to be successful, but everywhere people had family, dates, lovers, friends. Not they. They were just busy with their damned jobs. They needed to feel loved somewhere while they lay down. She would just barely touch the edges of their hair, stroking their heads, and she would nod to whatever they said. They wanted to feel included in something that was lazy and pure and not a work project. They wanted to see someone’s head up close to theirs. And they were idealists, she told herself, or they’d have someone to lie next to them. They could have found someone. But they didn’t want just anyone. Not yet. They were holding out for the perfect one.

Back to the one she imagined. He was unhaveable; he was too fine. Or he did too poor a job of trying to be fine. He didn’t have to bother. He was very good at what he did; but yet he wasn’t good enough. What was his problem? He was almost a cartoon of goodness.

The Dying Plane

But it’s also in us, he said. Our majesty. Never let anyone take that away from you. Not even a giant airplane or all the wind and sky and stars in the world. Royalty really is in your head. It was an exalted speech from an air steward. Accidental poetry. Our majesty, she said. She blinked, gratefully. She felt tears working their clever foxy ways out of her eyes. In her handbag, or her pocketbook, as it was more humbly and gracefully called, was her address, her car keys, the names and numbers of people who might still know her, who might understand the amnesia of being a year away, if they had once done such a thing, if they knew the red-velvet-dressed great sweet bed of geographical amnesia. Those, mostly, would be older men, fading out, who’d gone to war. She should choose a city, soon—choose and start up in a huge, numb city in America, the number and awfuller the better, something to fully trap her and keep her. I could—write a book, she’d begun trying to say to the air steward, he with his crisp white shirt and his vest of darkest but brilliant, radiant navy blue. But he had disappeared to be kind to others, to distribute more majesty. When she woke, she woke to unbeautiful but not unimportant noises. The plane was dropping at a terrible rate, a measurable rate by Brits in due time, from the miracle and mystery of the crown of a thing called black box, which would reveal why their plane was falling out of the sky toward the waiting swallow of sea: descent, she could not help thinking, almost a tailored match to her despair; the drop of the plane was the almost comic diagram of her grief about returning to a home she did not want. She was England’s, she was Covent Garden’s, she was in St. James park in a striped-fabric folding chair; she was the Norse-named towns ending in by, the raven-wing swell of dark hair in young British men’s hair left behind by Roman soldiers; she was the frenetic repeated steps of step-dances danced, as if carving the ground, by the Irish. She was the English. She had wanted it all to be hers, her truest mother and her father forever, King Lear with his true wife who loved him and found him on the moor; so, when the plane came to the water it was the right pain to end things, to end her failure to establish herself in some way in that place. Her only pain-flicks of regret she had, in the few moments she had to have them, were the dull awful regret that he, who must be in his house that smelled like lemons, would never know she was his; and, of course, her honest doubt she was. His. But she’d borrowed him for a while, in her head, to pretend he wanted to love her, understand her and hold her and keep her—even now, somehow, his great arms, able to hold her, catch her, now.

Pushcart nominee Rebecca Pyle’s writing appears, or is about to appear, this cave-dwelling year, in Festival Review, Cape Rock, Gargoyle magazine, In Parentheses, Honest Ulsterman, Litro USA, Terrain.org, Gris-Gris, Kleksograph, Common Ground Review, 15 Bytes, and in an anthology to be published by Grattan Street Press in Melbourne. Rebecca is a visual artist, too, her artwork to be in or on covers of numerous art/lit journals in 2021, Blood Orange Review, Gris-Gris, Cream City Review, Madison Review, Rappahannock Review, and JuxtaProse among them. Rebecca’s mumbly-peg life of arts & letters is conducted in foothills in Utah, just above Salt Lake City’s valley. See rebeccapyleartist.com.

Bryan D. Price

Self-loathing is the point

that is what I would have told him if we spoke (or were still speaking)

I don’t ask why but I know it to be true despite the need for doctors

and mystics despite the need for the power of positive thinking what

voice is that are you speaking in tongues or doing a bit or superimposing

a truer self or soul I am reminded here of epistemology—of trying to

be your beautiful actor your genuflecting pig blindfolded and staked to the

earth your self-contained vessel of putrid annoyance it has been twelve

minutes since I have thought about the future if I had a son I would

tell him that no matter what has been uttered by other witches or prelates

the self-loathing was the point


this is not about cognitive decline or
our life together held in place with safety pins
I am driving again and reading Robert Graves
found a volume of his myths in a Santa Maria bookstore
the pages dead leaf yellow and as cold as the day
before the paroxysm—you sprayed me down
black out drunk on the fire escape my psyche
held together between your thumb and blue forefinger
and now thought of as an astral projection or
a separate piece of history: a person who could have been
a sea captain or sister to the son of his old age

To render pain in animals

use small words as bitten down as seeds
look deep into the eye past the
sockets past the realm of the immutable
it’s like vocalizing the sound of cicadas
waited for you near a fence in western PA
a deer came out of the cemetery and then
another and another the humming was like
the dead sound before a lightning storm
bathe ritualistically (only once or twice)
court suffering and death ask to be
sacrificed the wound is peace to open the
border is to open the skin the rotted peach
had becalmed my spirit do not waste the
command to go forth and reciprocate
the peach was unripe and the floors were just
old boards I took the staples out like any
other superfluity slept in strange positions
gave into breathing (not meditating) just
gesturing toward life and persisting—get
out your watercolor paper and draw a straight
edge do it over and over again in pen in pencil
in scissor and vulture feather keep doing
so until you have made sense of the brutality

From the melting permafrost

this may be a final transmission or
second-to-last gasp maybe a cry for help an
accounting of everything I’ve seen up until
yesterday there is a lot to process right now
some things are too frightening to comprehend
like a wormhole into the past
have you ever been to Wilmington to Nauvoo
or Torrington to Alton where the last printing
press was shot into the earth’s sky like a satellite
it’s part of the trash nebula now there is
nothing romantic about finding water on the moon
but it may one day queer our grip on reality
Mike Davis critiqued Brecht for having never
set foot in a Wilmington bar and yet
here we are naturalizing the specter of a melancholy
wounding the seminal slaughter of ideals
thought good enough to colonize all aspects of
our institutional memory right down to the number
of bubbles in a bar of soap there will be calls for
blood and vengeance calls to reverse being
stabbed in the back—men out here from the
panhandle using semaphores and tongue-talkers
to engineer our demise my grandfather was a
ham radio enthusiast and my other grandfather
was a horse-breaker is there no room for me
now on this eerie plane of existence
the end will be cold and nomadic…the cultists
call down (from the afterlife) to say that
sleep is better than the talking cure…
if we could behave like ghosts I’d take the beanpot
back into the field to collect pine nuts again
vanishing into the purple hands of my mother’s
mother neither wading nor not wading into the
notion of an emerging insect world

Bryan D. Price’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in DMQ Review, Rhino Poetry, Pioneertown, and elsewhere. He lives in San Diego, California with his wife, a dog, and a cat named for Pina Bausch.

Jonathan Minton


I imagined that you had returned, as if from sea,
as the hippalectryon, the fire-colored horse-chanticleer.
When I stitched my mistakes into yet another monster,
you said it was fate, but you locked the tower gates.
You took my grief into a faraway kingdom, and built a room for it,
where impish creatures scratch the floors in the dark.
You placed a laboratory table, complete with straps
and elaborate equipment to measure every pulse and twitch.
You adorned the walls with your image, and routed the demons
with sunrise singing. You lined the village fountains with rare coins.
Your cults filled the temples. At home, citizens whispered
your secrets to each other. I will ask you to sing them to me
later, while my eyes are still closed.


You said our secrets kept us stranded. Somewhere else
there is a black box tossed in its wreckage, like a seed,
or polished stone. Somewhere else there is a sunken ship.
The wood is dissolving around the nails and rare coins.
They are like smooth, lidless eyes staring up from their depths.
On the shore there are wooden horses and hidden soldiers.
Someone has already invented this,
but they will destroy the city as if they were real.
Someone else will call your name. There is a mouth
inside this mouth that admits every mistake, but changes
the location to make it more exotic. In one version,
you are weeping beneath a yellowing cypress.
In another, a glacier is mirrored in the lake below it.
Something unspoken is also there, half-formed
between us, like a raw egg, or spring thaw.
Someone else is telling you nothing will change.
Someone else is saying goodbye.


We entered a new city every summer, but we were lonely
because our maps didn’t include the historic bodies of water.
We toured the canals without a guide, and photographed the trees.
Some were arranged in grids, some in tangles, like slender masts.
One was adorned with lights that hung in its branches like gold teeth.
You described them as cruel because nobody could touch them.
In such sorrows, the worst silence is not the refusal to speak,
but the compulsion to say something, to think of a substitute for loss.

I carry this memory like a lantern or a cup into its next sentence.
Something imaginary keeps it there, as with all ships in their harbor,
or swords that carve their plunder into smaller treasure.

Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He edits the journal Word For/Word.

Ian U Lockaby

Hand Tool

The sides of the well collapsed, vegetable and anxiety farmed all up the sides of the water source. Deep inside the well, a hand, a handing tool. A hand dig too left out in the rain will rust a while. The grin grips the pressure systems and the meteorologist moans. The meter is the motor, depending how you look at it. All utility must be watched, if it is to be utility rust. They hand you a tool. They charge you for it.

May 22

We take them down, slide the hour sharp right through the green tangle of feet, watch them after noon wilt against the dirt against the sun and against the dream of it— tidy plotted earth to harvest and harvest again. Wilting in the sun against the dream, here with my wit— I true the greening difference. I don’t understand that difference.

After lunching on the shade of the vine maple, the thought of yourself is going back to the field, leaving from leftover shade, having had your fill, but realizing you weren’t going back— it was the thought of you—you’ve ready said it I’m saying it again.

We’re going down to the beans and spinach—scuff them up. Shuffle your green and wilting feet. The work’s not over it’s under you. Rising up in to and through you. Rest your head against the dream awhile, harvest your feet.

A Demonstration

Suppose a demonstration is required of the worker. The labor being inside itself to begin with, mostly. What you will eventually eat upon is a table, which holds the leaves once held by hands, once inside themselves. Dust in the field is washed off before you table it. By who is not who you’re harboring, but who is harboring you.

To speak of the dibble is to reference an inside. When there is an inside, there is a dibble outside. Taking the weather in the weather’s times. To speak of the dibble. To nib with the dibble is to wear the long red gown of the weather. To follow the tails of the gown through the field crowded with seeded bread, and rows, is to dibble with toes, the labor of it.


In the well we farm for the sides of it, from a depth of sides we up and up the farm, the hefty sides, the hefty farm. A depth of wellness has much to do with the green side of things. When the well collapsed we were welling with anxiety and vegetable, vegetable anxiety. An algae swelled. There’s water in the well, well, well. Water in the well and the well’s collapsed. To drill the well requires a well, on the green side of things, a gathering up the hefty sides of algae-well.

Carry one cigarette from the garden up the pass

I left because I needed to arrive. Always trying to arrive is one way to seldom do. An ever-arriving coincident with a failure to recognize it, the air of our heads conditioned to miss the particles we land on, over and over, this progress.

I left summer because fall was one way to fall away. It got cold, surfaces came unstuck. Carrying tobacco flowers in a glass jar grown from seed I’d been saving for years. I would smoke the flowers. I would save a few seeds, willing particles to land on. I would might then.

Ian U Lockaby is a poet, translator, and former farmworker. His poems have appeared/will soon appear in Denver Quarterly, Datableed, Apartment, Dialogist, and elsewhere. He is the translator of Gardens, by Chilean poet Carlos Cociña, forthcoming from Cardboard House Press, and his translations also appear in Sink Review, Anomaly, and The Canary. He currently teaches at Louisiana State University and lives in New Orleans.

Michael J. Henry

Gun and Blue


Gun is painting his bedroom walls.
Blue is the color but not quite.

The paintcan label reads cornflower
and though Gun has never seen

an actual bloom, he believes in the word.
Gun is working hard to trust what he hears and sees,

speak and spell. He wants to feel good
about coining of phrase, knowing the known.

Gun and us fellas, us boys, we are all knowers,
are big talkers too,

always lecturing. We tend to shun conversation.
A one-way street, shut your hole and listen.


After a violent rainstorm, Gun gathers broken
branches in his weedy back yard. With a dull saw

he trims cracked tree limbs, leaves the big stumps
by the curb. To him they look like cigar butts.

When a truck with an enormous jointed arm
takes it all away Gun feels sad,

lies down on his stained mattress,
his body far from all other bodies.

Gun whispers a word: loneliness.
We are wise to it.

Like we always say:
in words we trust.


Gun sleeps. He dreams. In them, no one speaks.
Restless, he shifts, makes gentle waves

of the sheets, but he does not wake
for he is floating in the blue,

and there are no decent words
to describe the vivid hue of the ocean.

Gun Has Power of Mind

Gun thought of a hockey game—
the ice rink melted and
became a tsunami.

Gun thought of a septic system—
it softened into a giant snake that burst from the earth
and ate

all the neighborhood animals,
cats, dogs, hamsters, two

Gun thought of going to medical school—
it choked his throat, having to learn the names of all those bones
and germs.

Gun thought of UPS trucks—
they all drove ramshackle into the ocean,
a million cardboard packages bobbing on salty waves.

Gun thought of money—
his eyes melted and his fingers were
crumpled newspaper pages.

Gun thought about the rainclouds in the sky—
they turned to rock and fell to earth,
smashing everything to smithereens.

Gun thought of global warming—
fat men in suits laughed themselves purple, slurping scotch
and blood on the rocks.

Gun worried about the polar ice caps—
a long icicle swelled out of his ear,
dripping clear.

Gun saw all these teens running from the high school.
He waved Hi but they didn’t seem to appreciate
the kind gesture.

Gun pondered his naked form in the mirror,
he curled up fetal on his creaky bed
and wept.

Gun Goes to See a Shrink

They sit, inert.
They don’t say anything.
Gun, it is apparent, is
well defended.

The shrink says,
Well, let’s start by you
telling me
about your day.

Gun says
I got up
used the john
went for
a walk, went off
a couple of times,
then ended up
back in the closet
in the old tin box
high on the shelf
with the Penthouses
and the paperdry
baggie of dope,
like I’m some kind
of contraband.

And how did you feel
about that?

People died
along the way
but so what?
It’s not my fault.

What makes you
say that?

Say what? All of it?

The last part.

Because I didn’t do it.
Haven’t you heard?
Gun don’t kill
people, people
kill people.

Long pause.
Shrink scribbles
some notes.
He makes a cage
of his fingers,
tip to tip.
He is thinking real deep.
The moment hangs there
in the empty space
between them,
like something
might actually happen.

The shrink sucks in a deep breath.
Well, I’m sorry to say our time
is up.

Just what I was thinking, Gun says.

Michael Henry is co-founder and Executive Director of Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the largest independent literary arts center in the Rocky Mountain west. He is the author of three books of poetry and has received fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts and PlatteForum, and a Livingston Fellowship from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.