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.

Helen O’Leary

—click on any image to enlarge—


Artist’s Statement

Growing up in rural Ireland in the 1960s through 1980s, I often heard my mother talking of the “big house” and the class system that was clearly in place, ending each story with “Their ways weren’t our ways”; later, when my family ran a boarding house, she would dismiss the tourists who stayed with us with the same comment. My childhood was defined by the “if you can’t make it, you can’t have it” Ireland, a place where making things—food, shelter, ornament—and making do were central to both the physical and emotional survival of the family. That reality and the resulting radical attitude to tradition, high-class impurity, and rascality inherent in the Irish culture of that time expressed itself not only in my mother’s words but in the language, literature, people, and music that surrounded me as an adolescent. As a young painter this sensibility naturally carried over into how I looked at the modern masters, and to the questions asked of their conventions and their “ways.” I’ve always been most interested in the modest lyricism of the purely mundane, never feeling abstraction to be the sole province of the heroic and the cerebral. Throughout my career, I have been constructing a very personal and idiomatic formal language based in simple materials and unglamorous gestures, a framework which functions as a kind of syntactical grid of shifting equivalences. The “paintings” that emerge from this process know their family history, a narrative of greatness fallen on hard times. Yet, for all that, they remain remarkably un-defensive, wobbly, presuming no need to disavow the past or defy the present. I work from memoir, stories of growing up on the farm in Wexford and my life now in the States, short stories that I then fashion from the archaeology of my studio. I work the studio as my father worked the farm, with invention out of need, using my own displacement as fodder for meaning. I take things apart, forgetting conventions and reapply my own story to the form. I revel in the history of painting, its rules, its beauty, its techniques, but fold them back into the agricultural language I grew up with. I’m interested in the personal, my own story, and the history of storytelling. My new work delves into my own history as a painter, rooting in the ruins and failures of my own studio for both subject matter and raw material. I have disassembled the wooden structures of previous paintings—the stretchers, panels, and frames—and have cut them back to rudimentary hand-built slabs of wood, glued and patched together, their history of being stapled, splashed with bits of paint, and stapled again to linen clearly evident. The residual marks on the frames, coupled with their internal organization, begin to form a constellation of densities, implying an idiomatic syntax of organic fluctuation where compact spaces coexist with the appearance of gaping holes where the rickety bridges have given way. Formal and structural concerns become inseparable, the slippery organization of their fluctuating grids showing a transparency both literal and historical. With both serenity and abandon, these structures imagine the possibility that painting might take root and find a place to press forward into fertile new terrain. Humorous, enigmatic, these fragments bare their histories as well-worn objects, and in that maintain a certain irrefutable integrity, speaking to both the strengths and frailties ingrained by hard use and the passage of time. What long remained hidden as merely the bones behind the image plane have been exhumed and remade into the tendons and sinews of the image itself. Through the process of deconstruction and reassembly, the pieces invert the conventional anatomical hierarchies of painting in an attempt to find what is fresh and vital among the entrails of the image. The paintings affirm over and over again in elegant fashion the pleasures of a demanding and nonjudgmental yet always self-conscious practice of painting that gives joy to the eye and substance to the spirit. I am interested in painting that would stand up without the usual structures of support. I am looking at my own life, the history of Sean-nós singing in Irish music, Beckett’s pared-down language, and the currency of need found in most houses when I was growing up.

Helen O’ Leary was born in Wexford, Ireland. She attended NCAD and earned a BFA and MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL. She has been honored with the Rome Prize American Academy in Rome, Hennessy Purchase Award, IMMA, Dublin, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; two Pollock-Krasner awards; the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture; and several grants from the Arts Council. She has attended many residencies, including the Culturel Irlandaise, France; the Sam and Adele Golden Residency, NY; Mac Dowell, NY; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME; and Yaddo, NY. Exhibitions include the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY; The MAC Belfast, Ireland; National Gallery of Art, Ireland; the Glasgow Museum of Art, Scotland; Lesley Heller Gallery, NY; Galerie le Petit Port, Ireland; the Contemporary Arts Centre, Australia; Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, IL; Kerlin Gallery, Ireland; and Fenderesky Gallery, Ireland. She currently lives in Jersey City NJ and Leitrim, Ireland. A new film about her work can be viewed here.

Peter Leight


Hunting for what we need, we work back from what we don’t have, as if the desire is a searchlight looking for something to shine on. Or is it the kind of sensitive light that only shines when there’s something to see? Is this what you mean by a “difference of opinion?” Desire is often mine or yours, not ours—not everybody has the same desires, not all the time, it’s practically the essence of shopping. It is usually better to say “I think so.” When we’re young we hunt to feel older, then we hunt because everybody does. Then we hunt because we need to. We’re keeping our eyes open—it is often the case that you don’t notice something until you point it out to yourself. The light is restless, as if it has its own desire. Or is it desire that suppresses the light, disappearing in the order in which it appears desirable in the first place? Is this what you mean by “making up your mind?” Sometimes I think we give too much weight to our desires, and we don’t even know where the resistance is going to come from—it takes all our strength just to give in to the weakness.


At times I’m closer,

then you are,

as if we’re taking turns,

right now we’re close enough to stop paying attention.

When you turn

I turn the same way,

I’m going to start carrying around one of those cool telescopes that opens up by pulling out of itself,

because it lets you see how far away you are

from what you’re close to.

Right now I think you’re not as close as I am,

not as close as I am to you,

it isn’t the same distance on both sides, as if it’s a talk show or other show we’re watching together

but not in the same room.

Sometimes it’s better to wait for somebody else to go first—

I often wait for you

while you’re waiting for me,

do you think it’s normal?

Of course, there are times when you’re close to something you don’t even notice,

it depends on what you need

or what you like:

what you need to like—

I don’t want you to feel distant, like a person in the rear of a large auditorium.

We often place our hands on top of each other like a layer cake

with nothing between the layers,

as if we’re closer than we think,

when you ask for something I’m going to hand it over right away,

without even thinking,

I’m going to tell you to take what you want,

is there anything else you want me to admit?

I’m showing you the undersides of my wrists

so you’ll see I’m serious,

you often feel closer than something that is actually close to me,

closer and closer,

like a close up:

it brings to mind the sostenuto pedal that keeps one part where it is while the other moves on.

I’m not ignoring the erosion of trust that isn’t meant to last,

not at all,

when you stick in your earrings I feel the posts,

sometimes I think we’re close enough to see our own reflections on the curved screens of our eyeballs,

close enough to move away from each other.

If you come any closer I’m going to ask you to leave.

After the War

After the war winds up After the war’s wrapped up After the war is done with it nobody else is going to want it After the war chews it up nobody knows what to do with it After the war movie opens up After the war pops up on the screen there isn’t anything else to look for After the war it’s the burial business the business of shadows After you recover After the parades After the war parties After the war is over nobody knows what happened to it After the war packs it up nobody bothers to take it out After you never recover After the war wraps it up nobody knows where to look for it It’s the same after the war winds up
Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, FIELD, and other magazines.

Susan Leary


My mother explains the babies have a designated space in the cemetery & I think, only death would disguise in such beautifully-cut grass a field of complex abductions. There should be an ancient remedy for this kind of grief since babies are phantasmal things, but no. Women gather like clover at graves & still, starshine seals the mysteries of a body’s ‘complications.’ As a girl, how I ever thought babies were mixed in ceramic bowls from a fizzing, plum-colored paste? That at night they wakened from the centers of hand-carved soaps sold in some seaside shop in Maine. A baby, literally made gift. This is what we mean when we say ‘an active imagination.’ Active because it lacks any desire to will or change. Strange, flitting things should matter now. Every bird, a carrier of consciousness. Every skull, an oxygenated heart. Yet, as the metaphors edge off sadness, they demonstrate a thievery of love. See? Even the sunlight escaping a tangle of branches in three evenly-spaced segments of earth. How much of this living, then, requires us, still, to be born? When staying is the only currency & wisdom, but the cruelty of bargaining with one’s imagination. I falter in such contests & self-persuasions,

& if I had a daughter, I would name her Mary.

Catch & Release

What a beautiful thing to see the ache of first light & not know how easy for it to kill you. To believe its steady sprawl into sun & the sun’s miraculous descent into water—all of nature: a kindness. So that anything else, a fish can only do to himself. Can only bite down & swallow the hook of human hands & once in those hands, learn the lesson of barely breathing. This may happen once, twice. Or not at all. Though each time, at ourselves, we will marvel proudly. Look at the budding mouth, we will say. The tiny gills gusted into wings. The eyes brimming with dayshine the color of lilacs. This is how it begins. How a fish becomes a body & through this, how a body becomes a boy that survives. Knowing only to flail & calm. Flail & calm. How easy, then, to gift a thing back to the world & watch it swim off. To wash our hands clean with the ocean’s impossible refusal. Oblivious the fish might asphyxiate, or bleed out, or feed until the last horizon on the invisible blade of a ghost. As if we all believed the fish were to remain unchanged. That it were lucky to return to water.

X-Ray Impression #2: Self-Study

If science is the body’s ability to know something the world cannot, what then of the world? How should it come to recognize itself if all but gloaming & accidental recklessness? In the doctor’s office, my husband holds images of himself in his hands & he is pleased he proves transparent. I, however, would rather cry at the fact of such hidden severity. Blame God for the insufficiency of origins. I do this because I am too uncreative. Too lacking in faith. As if every intimacy were born from the misperception of an invasion. Imagine, my husband says, the shared pulse of a river & a ravine. That between them I might accept a principled violence. I take this to mean my husband is too optimistic. Too smart for his own good. He takes this to mean that within the cavernous dens of our bodies, we make effective use of the shadows. Invent from them the flimsy beasts we know our bones too precocious to ever need to outrun. The curve of my husband’s spine thus nothing but the body taken by a rigorous self-intrigue. By a desire to never cease bending into the prospect of its own humanity. Within every vertebra, the briefest eternity. That at each turn, might open the crimped wings of a thousand paper birds crawling from the space of their births & feeling for their hearts. The world consumed by the vast invisibility of its histories, where inch by inch by inch, everything beats, purposefully, from without.

X-Ray Impression #4: Wife’s Tale

In the non-dream, tissue will come to out-torture the blade.
Will deny itself the privilege of rupture & instead swallow itself whole.

I know because a seahorse is born without ribs.
That it hooks its spine to the ocean floor because it believes water a hungry lung.

What this suggests about surviving, I am loath to say. Though did you hear?
A seahorse once lived to be a hundred years old despite an inability to swim.

Susan Leary‘s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in such places as Into the Void, Arcturus (Chicago Review of Books), Heavy Feather Review, and Gone Lawn. She has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in August 2019. She teaches English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL.

Janis Butler Holm

Sound Poems

from Rabelaisian Play Station



Imitation huckleberries hope to slander pilliwinks, lying consequentially to vibrant fish and fowl.
Much as specious water heaters dandle foreign underbrush, cracked and sullied databases target
kitchenettes. “That’s rubbish,” said the needle nozzle, fending off jujitsu moves. In effect, this ancient
humbug smacks of rock ‘n’ roll. And what of doctored leg extensions, wily, grouped, and nettlesome?
Even ersatz fuddy-duddies tamper with purée.


Micronizing eyelash curlers fabricate their voltage drops.

Bowdlerizing car mechanics fabricate their pseudocones.

Customizing willow beetles fabricate their railway yards.

Gourmandizing traffic tickets fabricate their linking verbs.

Sympathizing chaos junkies fabricate their stubble geese.

Traumatizing butterscotches fabricate their flexure tests.

Neutralizing protest slogans fabricate their whiskey jugs.

Plasticizing stretcher cases fabricate their gamma waves.


Snooker black-eyed peas, my pet, and garble lithogenesis. Manipulate gorilla suits with fiddlesticks
and chyme. Some wonky kleptoparasites have deconstructed volleyball. Accordingly, fallacious
brickwork organizes snuff. Yada, yada, yada–having counterfeited onion rings, artificial letter writers
tussle with croquet. Your bogus metacriticism roller-skates with laundry chutes, and inauthentic
gyromancy fires a grassy knoll.


Obfuscating hunger artists falsify their chimney pots.

Percolating anthrax hoaxes falsify their logic games.

Carbonating input methods falsify their hydrophiles.

Imprecating mountain faces falsify their dealerships.

Estimating coffee grinders falsify their stable hands.

Lubricating science studies falsify their pleasantries.

Gravitating ketchup bottles falsify their tummy tucks.

Subjugating baseball clinics falsify their woolly bears.


Peevishly adulterated, crackerjacks rigidify, leaving phony knickerbockers wretched and alone. At
what price do sandwich cookies libel pomp and circumstance? Misreported fallen arches spurn the
day-to-day. Camouflage or improvise or weave together onion smut. Undeterred by trickish poplin,
nappies shoot the breeze. Never has deceptive yoga cozened rubbing alcohol. Double-dealing
slumber parties oxidize fake news.

Artist’s Statement

Influenced by Yoko Ono’s performance pieces, these sound poems are selections from a book of experimental work to be titled Rabelaisian Play Station. While drawing from Dadaist (Hugo Ball) and Surrealist (Kurt Schwitters) traditions, my work differs from earlier sound experiments by using real words instead of non-word phonetic sequences, engaging the reader by the possibilities of interpretation even as the word combinations refuse to transmit meaning in conventional ways. Yet here at the border between sense and nonsense, a reader can construct meaning—in this instance, for example, the absurdity of declaring everything one doesn’t like as fake.

Janis Butler Holm has served as Associate Editor for Wide Angle, the film journal. Her prose, poems, and performance pieces have appeared in small-press, national, and international magazines. Her plays have been produced in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Thomas Cook

Skinny Dudes

The taffy comes hard when you are too handsome for words. Luckily, I also can’t face the fact of my insincere stance toward mental health with anything more exacting than “bisexual playboy” at the fore of my thinking. It keeps the free library free. A big for instance being Austin, or Colonus, wherever buying a good pillar is still a fair way to settle a dispute over land with the hassle of obfuscating talk. I once ate shrimp in the loneliest strip mall, the vans arriving only every three weeks with new products, and this was not a popular dish. There was always the hotel microwave, which universities buy secondhand.

Hallucinating Cheeks

The data, unchecked, can make the day merely tabular in the workbox of the mind. There is also trappedness, a hearthrug of what’s wound around the coated greetings of the best and most lasting people in the building. Best has less to do with extraction than survival, of course, these days, and I was after all able to find one of those little paper cups with pop-out mug handles into which I can mete out the contents of my thermos. Do I pivot, or remain facing the questions I pose to myself, diffusely but persistently, questions embedded in the lines of every notebook page I see? Rain calms overnight and leads to the bright day. Machinery is small, humming in corners of the earth.

Decent Orange

The international success of Daft Punk’s song “Around the World” will warrant more attention in the future, wherever that may be, just saying, considering all dimensions and dimensionality of the entire thing, that thing being the subject of the song or the existence of electronic music in general, depending on how you peanut butter wolfed the backstage passes to harp molasses turn out to be. I was there. I was there, and I could do the damage, or I could reproduce amalgamations, but who has that interest? I could eat beef, or I could escape on cool cheese. How am I meant to dance in the hall of the finest high school (be waxed) before the axe came down? Origin stories are difficult, especially in the case of cortexes, though I exhale, imagining what I could have done with momentum ten minutes past the buzzer; if you don’t believe me, continue to lie to yourself, a poem for the millennium in which you were found.

Thomas Cook lives in Los Angeles, CA and Galesburg, IL. He is an editor and publisher of Tammy and Tammy Chapbooks. A special feature of his recent poetry is forthcoming in Quarterly West.

Emily Blair

A Boy Named Rooster Tries to Kiss Me

with a lip full of mint Skoal and his thumbs hooked in his belt loops, oh Jesus do you wonder why my type is my type, this dripping masculinity, this air of no care in the world, this lanky frame wound taut, guitar string twanging against the world

and tells me he has to go home to bury his uncle. Home isn’t here, home is up and up the mountains, a half-lane dirt road touching the face of God, God in a clapboard 8 pew shack of Jesus Christ, home is back-home, he’s using the terms I will feel in my mouth only years later, my whole family is buried in the cemetery in Slabtown, you can’t throw a rock and not hit my relative’s tombstone there —

but Rooster has to go home to bury his uncle. His home-place you see, up there it’s all family cemeteries and no funeral homes. They get the body and hold some kind of Christian vigil while the men take turns in the pouring March rain, that freezing rain that gets beneath your skin and in your eyes, that low hanging cloud rain, digging with shovels, the road too tight for a backhoe, the rows too tight for that kind of equipment, they bury their dead sole to sole practically up there, because the folks are getting older but the mountains are winnowing, this way and that, and they only have this plot to save. Rooster tells me that he’ll go up and help dig this grave, they’ll drink beer and whisky and dig this grave, all the men together, while the women sit among cooling casseroles and watch over the soul. Rooster tells me it’s better this way, it’s everybody’s job so it’s nobody’s job, and that another relative has made the casket, and that he didn’t really know his uncle but that’s the way we do it, that’s what we do

and I lean toward Rooster and say, That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

toothy mother

my mother’s mouth is filled with teeth [canine, elk, bison, pike]
frothing forth to chatter on the kitchen floor
one by one – thunder
shakes a tin roof, windows chattering in warped frames

and I’m eight feet tall and newborn,
angelic scope, the angels were harbingers, the angels were bulletproof,
and I’m all gums and cartilage, my soft spots broader than a man’s palm

she says we thought you were a demon because you cried so much

and what of it, if I were punishment? if I were sent
to bring you to your knees? is your throat scraped from these teeth? are you
shark mother? am I minnow? am I tadpole, burrowing and burrowing and emerging
as loud as a bullfrog, that sound deep under your skin? and what should I have been sorry
for being born
just because I was an infant, and you were a mother, and everything about you
turns inside out, a body of prolapse, liters of bile, and blaming me for the trouble?


in our postage-stamp yard
tall grass casts shadows over
my mother
asking from the porch
what more I could want
outside this place

her embrace         a shifting body

full tide mother // swift current mother
take me below


I am inordinately good
at stacking dirty dishes
in boggling shapes

it came up to nearly

nothing broke but the sound was

mother        [not impressed]


everyone forgets seraphs
were beasts of fire

but I don’t
& she doesn’t

we sit perpendicular,
skipping wind across coffee,
looking past
out our respective doors


she says, it’s turtles all the way down

springs rise
through mattresses

we put down quilts
as if to stem
a slow & painful leak

my teeth came in crooked
I could not eat right
& the house leaned


I’m sick of talking about
the different ways
panes of glass grind together,
pulled down to make sand
a single clutched fist
might hold

Love Poem: For Mrs. Pac-Man

My love is an empty laundromat, humid, acrid.
The machines are going but no one is here. My love is an inconvenience,
but a convenient inconvenience, the thing you need
instead of want.

My love is clanking quarters in front pocket,
wet palms and dripping orphan socks. You were here
once, somehow, even if you’ve always had
in-unit machines. My love is ubiquitous.

My love is spare socks and missing socks and whose underwear are these?
My love is your wadded wet clothes on the concrete floor.
My love asks if you have a quarter, then if you have a light,
then if you have a cigarette, then if you have a boyfriend.

My love can’t take a hint.

My love is an empty laundromat
in a small town, near the interstate,
with Mrs. Pac-Man bleeping and blooping in the corner
but quarters are for laundry, and laundry is expensive,
and I’ll be here all night.

Love Poem: For The Sounds at Night

My love is an eighteen-wheeler careening down the side of a mountain,
Jake-brake screaming at the night. I am incapable of stopping.

Do you believe in prayer, in miracles? The people in cars
blinking down this mountain in front of me
need to. My love is too heavy and too fast.
There comes a point when people realize
the combustion in their chest was not me, but the sound
of me, the way that I make you feel in your lungs but you realize
I am a chest cold – I will pass.

My love echoes through the holler, reverberating
deep through unsuspecting chests. My love, my father called it a jay-brake,
and I thought it was a jay-brake until I sat down to write

about this sound. Indescribable.
My love is a risk, my love is risky,
my love is sorry I left, my love left the mountains,
my love lives in the mountains, my love wants to go home.

Emily Blair is a queer Appalachian poet and blue-collar scholar originally from Fort Chiswell, Virginia. She currently lives and teaches in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her first chapbook of poetry, WE ARE BIRDS, is available from Dancing Girl Press. She has recent and forthcoming work in Riggwelter Press, The Pinch Journal, Occulum Journal,. and others.

Azadeh Ardalan

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Artist’s Statement

My recent paintings are in large part a reflection of contemporary individuals who are showing different states of mind. These figures are mostly a record of some images in my mind which I make visual. In the recent years I have developed a new view in painting, focusing mostly on figures who are sitting, standing or doing things as if in a theatre set.

Azadeh Ardalan is an internationally exhibiting artist. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Italy, France and elsewhere. She studied languages and literature at Bologna university in Italy and continues to work on developing her proficiency in different languages.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 21)


Happy Spring, and welcome to Posit 21!

It is with equal parts pride and delight that we offer the freshness and breadth of poetry, prose, and visual art in this issue: its capacity to match aesthetic delight with insight, emotion, and critique. Book-ended by poignant treatments of mother and home by Emily Blair and Karolina Zapal, the writings featured here are distinguished either by the bold frankness of their voice, the restraint of their meditative lyricism, or the exuberance of their experimentation and play. And the visual art collected here has a comparable depth and breadth, from painting to assemblage, collage to textile.

All of this, of course, against the ever-more disconcerting backdrop of our real-world “collective failing, a planet / boiling” about which “how frighteningly / beautiful those words / about the slouching and /the beast, another matter / when it is at the door” (Gary Sokolow, The Darkness, The Knocking).

Yet even now, when what the narrator of Blair’s A Boy Named Rooster Tries to Kiss Me calls “the craziest thing she ever heard” makes more sense than what we’re asked to accept on a daily basis by the most powerful man in the world, these works remind us how “the moment / is still music” (Mark Truscott, Rain) and help us appreciate “windfall as artifact of storm.” (F. Daniel Rzicznek, from Leafmold).

Which is why you won’t want to miss these wise and beautiful windfalls of our stormy times.

Azadeh Ardalan’s painted-from-memory portraits utilize eye-poppingly vivid, non-naturalistic colors and broad, gestural, brushstrokes to peer beneath the surface of how we live now. The heightened colors and lush textures with which she depicts contemporary characters seated in simplified interiors is more than reminiscent of the Fauves (and especially Henri Matisse): it brings their revolutionary prioritization of form and color effortlessly forward into the 21st century. The velvety saturation of Ardalan’s palette infuses these paintings’ static compositions with an intense energy, so that their depiction of the isolation of contemporary life delights the eye, refreshing the viewer’s appreciation for the beauty of the everyday.

Emily Blair writes in a powerful voice rich with mastered emotion and an indelible connection to a home left as far behind as it is ever-present. These lyrical poems evoke a “back-home” to which, to paraphrase Thomas Wolfe, the narrator can never truly return: a back-home of laundromats and Ms. Pac-Man and eighteen-wheelers and a boy named Rooster “with a lip full of mint Skoal and his thumbs in his belt loops,” as well as seraphs that are “beasts of fire” and a “toothy” mother “everything about [whom] turns inside out, a body of prolapse, liters of bile, and blaming [her] for the trouble.”

In Thomas Cook’s prose poems we are treated to language at serious play, a gestural yet sly resort to the atomized energy and unpredictable harmony of words and phrases in a world where “origin stories are difficult,” the “best has less to do with extraction than survival, especially in the case of cortexes.” In the world of these poems, lying to yourself is a shortcut the poet must eschew, even if, or perhaps especially because, it would create “a poem for the millennium in which you were found.”

In Janis Butler Holm’s sound poems from Rabelaisian Play Station, we’re treated to another vision of language cavorting on the fertile ground “between sense and nonsense.” In keeping with their Dadaist heritage, these humorous mash-ups ring deliciously with the surprising sting of critique. Dripping with satire, and propelled by a driving trochaic beat, these collages focused on fabrication and falsification lampoon the absurdity of an all-too-recognizable political status quo, one in which “peevishly adulterated, crackerjacks rigidify,” “percolating anthrax hoaxes falsify their logic genes,” and “double-dealing slumber parties oxidize fake news.”

Susan Leary studies the emotional complications, more and less beautiful, in the unknowable spaces between body and soul, as well as bodies and souls; “the world consumed by the vast invisibility of its histories.” In the first poem, that “the babies have a designated space in the cemetery” underscores that “only death would disguise in such beautifully-cut grass a field of complex abductions.” In another, the narrator wonders “how a fish becomes a body, & through this how a body becomes a boy that survives. Knowing only to flail and calm.” Yet another poem asks, “if science is the body’s ability to know something the world cannot, what then of the world?” And, further: “how should it come to recognize itself if all but gloaming & accidental recklessness?”

Returning to Posit with more virtuosic thought experiments, Peter Leight offers a number of understated meditations which cast “the kind of sensitive light that only shines when there’s something to see” — even, or perhaps especially, when it is “the business of shadows.” This poet’s probing work has the courage to “see how far away you are / from what you’re close to,” and the wisdom to know that it “takes all our strength just to give in to the weakness.”

Fabricated out of numerous pieces of wood “puzzled” together into abstract and architectural forms, Helen O’Leary’s sculptures are miraculous in their meticulous fabrication and transcendental beauty. They travel simultaneously between the worlds of painting and sculpture. The surfaces move literally and figuratively, their unlikely undulations carrying the eye across their painted surfaces, around to their backs, through their openings and back. These visual journeys are a surprise and delight. O’Leary is a master of abstract narrative. Each of these constructions has a story to tell. They hint of history, memory and experience. O’Leary presents the clues so that we can finish each narrative in our personal way.

F. Daniel Rzicznek returns to Posit as well, with more lush and meditative prose pieces from Leafmold. In these poems, living in the wild reveals that when there is “trouble with the bugs, trouble with thirst, trouble with desire,” “gratitude must be endless if you want to survive.” In a vivid tableau of “two towels, rust-orange and aquamarine, flap[ping] on the clothesline” the narrator sees “capes worn by invisible spirits, maybe your guardians, your watchers.” Considering what he has “left . . . on the mainland,” he concludes it is “that certain noise,” the “noise of certainty.” In the wild, by contrast, “the season puts white on the pines but inside them: always green, always green.”

Gary Sokolow’s poems find solace in the memory of a time when “it was cheaper to be going nowhere” and “nothing mattered but to stand by the last great jukebox” even if “maybe I was simply crazy believing I was stopping time, nursing a beer.” Yet, despite the fact that life is “a bracelet tight around (our) ankles” and “the shadows stay like the outline of the names of the builders on the ovens of Auschwitz,” these poems manage to balance despair with hope: that “a want there is to make it kinder” despite “the thirteen billion light years that would take.”

In Eternal Relations, hiromi suzuki collages black and white images with words from a variety of languages to consider our “eternal relations” with nature, animals, and human society. Her use of the Japanese interpretation of Chinese kanji evokes the “eternal relation” of letters and visual images – the essence of the ideogram. In River and Forest, a parallel is drawn between the branching structures of tributaries and tree limbs, and the visual connotations of their kanji. Town, on the other hand, highlights the witty juxtaposition of its component characters, which translate, in English, as “orange chocolate almond.” Yet again, in Bird, the lack of easily discernable hints keeps us guessing – beyond the charming image of the kanji itself, perched like a bird on the back of a calf.

The astoundingly detailed collage work of Maritta Tapanainen delights and toys with the viewer. They are so precisely assembled that it is, at first glance, difficult to be sure if they are constructed rather than drawn. These transcendent collages are assembled out of hundreds of pieces of found paper. Working within the palate of black and white, she draws out scores of subtle and rich tones. The soft patina of vintage papers and multiple shades of black ink reveal the rich variety of colors that that we tend to think of as “monochromatic.” Her pieces draw from natural history, science and music, creating a world that is lyrical and lively. Her ability to weave together these disparate elements is no less than masterful.

In these lovely and profound poems, Adam Tedesco offers a persona who “stayed who I was as if I had an option” even with a “feeding tube filled with … dreams, sadness & Swiss omelets, this Rickroll of numb gums and dumb love.” These fine poems do not cease probing, even though “anything you try to understand owns you. The light you bend towards owns you. Your lover’s point of view owns you.” Even when “to weep is to ask what is in us,” this poet is not afraid to forge ahead until “cleared smoke & human patience reveal” poetry’s essence, the intersection of the mundane and the magical: “commonness, a plate & glass, the tablecloth pulled.”

With these poems from Her Scant State, Barbara Tomash returns to Posit with a sample of her own novel approach to erasure, constructing two-part poems extracted from the first and second halves of Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady. In the complexity of this conversion from novel to poetry and conversation between novelist and poet (as well as between the novel and itself), Tomash reweaves James’ inimitable and exquisite prose through the loom of her own prosody, giving rise to a lively juxtaposition of paired and pared-down questions and images. What Tomash questions here is no less than James’ imagination of feminity: that “queer country across the sea” which he recognized as “caught in a vast cage” – a vision lovingly reimagined by Tomash, “in her lucidity” via “ambiguities composed all of the same flower.”

The quiet gravitas of Mark Truscott’s conceptual meditations contemplate the materials of existence: the tension between seems and is, the transience of matter, light, water, and breath in their progress towards to drift and diffusion. These poems ask “what can it mean / that what is / has arisen already? / And then it will change.” Truscott manages this heavy lifting with a light and graceful touch, “placing / word after word / before coating their / succession in / colours of interior / sound.” The placid surface of his prosody is “like / a surface of water, / vulnerable to ripples, / real, now / momentarily /expressing its /potential for stillness” even as its “slow-beat ringing / continues,” with understated elegance, in the reader’s ear.

Altered States is an apt name for this body of work by Kit Warren. Painted in a variety of media, and made over a long period of time, they have an intoxicating quality. Warren uses a rich and elegant palette that draws us deeply into the work. Rhythmically moving across the page, her shimmering marks invite you into their world. They present a meditative, calm universe in which we can relax and enjoy the luxury of this work.

Marie Watt makes contemporary sculptures out of memory and tradition, tweaked with a distinctly contemporary sensibility. She often uses materials common to all of us, if full of potent meaning personal to the artist. Using many traditional fabrication techniques, she presents a fully developed body of artwork that is deeply moving. Fusing storytelling, politics, and a graceful aesthetic, she presents narratives that cross time and place to touch us all. Her desire to create community and engage with women “makers” adds unique social resonance and depth to her lovely work.

And, finally, in language as frank as it is vivid, in which “a gut feeling is just a gut job,” Karolina Zapal evokes a piercing yearning for mother and home inflected by “a sprig of jealousy a pinch of gratitude a handful of reserve.” The wisdom of this poet’s treatment of those emotional touchstones lies in her recognition of their limitations, that “what she has is not / enough and what she can have is no more.” With poignant lyricism we learn that “when Baby returns home home breaks / into a whisper” even while “a cheek of moonlight / on the road breaks off / in my eye.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading and viewing.

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, Bernd Sauermann, and Melissa Stern

Hirosuke Yabe

—click on any image to enlarge—


Artist’s Statement

I make wooden sculptures that look like animal anthropomorphic creatures, sometimes monsters too. Actually I think that these are all humans. (A metaphor of the human condition.) “What is it to be human?” “What is the human being?” I am interested in these questions. I am also interested in the question of what is it to be Japanese. Sometimes humans are animals and monsters. Human beings have various aspects.

I sometimes imagine that my work looks silly, funny and the characters are foolish but also cute, lovely and sweet. Also sometimes they are expressionless and we can’t tell from their expression what they are thinking. In a sense possibly they are like the Japanese character… perhaps.

I have been making a series of works called Faithful Dog Man. Actually, when I make this work I imagine a “faithful person character” in my mind. Who is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? What is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? What country is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? I sometimes put messages and humor in my work, like this. However I am not interested in directly telling people only an ironic message. Because I would like my work “people and creatures” to be loved by other people and me. I would like my characters to be loved by people, and my characters to feel close to people and me. Because they are always looking for a new owner.

Hirosuke Yabe was born 1972 in Kanagawa, Japan and received his B.F.A. in Sculpture from Zoukei University of Art in Tokyo in 2002. His work has been exhibited in group and solo shows at Cindy Rucker Gallery in New York (2018) and t-gallery in Tokyo (2016).

Rick Snyder

O Miselle Passer!

Who now goes down that shadowy road
from which they say no one returns.
—Catullus 3

Gratingly smooth
flute and guitar,

announcements about bags
and items left by the unknown,

British-tinged accounts
of the same stories

in today’s Times,
staggering estimates

of this year’s cost of war,
prohibitions on smoking,

your cooperation,
passenger Edward Cho

and Agent Ashanti, 3221,
a potential cease-fire

in Gaza, Oprah’s body,
and just when you thought

it was piped in for people
too nervous and tired

to do anything but write in
Agent Ashanti, 3221, rush,

a geriatric script
on a folded knee,

a sparrow hops down the aisle
of empty blue plastic seats,

to which they say
everyone returns.

Red Tide

A big plastic plant sits in this room.
Outside the ocean runs through its scales.
Inside the ocean fish dart around
in theirs like random knights on the verge
of colliding, before they swerve to different
angles in an extra linear world
that is (theoretically) comforting
in its bounded lack of boundaries.
Time would be the opposite. If it
existed (as the ocean must) it would
go on forever. You could cut it as many
times as the market indicates. Divers-
ify. Fill it with plastic algae to feed
the valiant fishes floating up to shore.

Rick Snyder is the author of Escape from Combray (Ugly Duckling, 2009) and several chapbooks. His poems and translations have appeared in Aufgabe, Conduit, Fence, jubilat, Ping Pong, and other journals. His articles on modern and contemporary poetry and translation have appeared in Radical Society, Jacket, and Occasion. He currently lives in Long Beach, CA, and is an assistant teaching professor in the classics department at the University of California, Irvine.