AJ Urquidi

convalescent stayover at the flamingo house

/ what recourse you gave was never yours to begin with // desiccate marrow, mauve mallow
cinders to lay on cherubim desks // all year their mother cries, pipewater sputters out of its
element // reset your watch, chime, chime in // watch the zookeeper’s child drain lymph from
rind // honesty fumbles in her bouts of proved worry // because she’s aware, you can’t be vilified
// in decorous time you’ll again displease the syndicate \

/ marabou stork, walk into your cage // the beach bodies winter scars // toss towels on the shower
floor with care // you are not shelter, but you bend in wind // the guest bed unwinds where it
wanders // curve gashes where onyx drags fir // donald ducks inscribe a ceiling like a pox //
whatever you find, love the anxious rest of them \

/ she retches, dangles bracelets // one’s strung limpets // then do not resuscitate, of course // not
long ago, you’d have begged to join this menagerie // tap the windshield, the capybara rolls its
eyes // keep apologizing to posterity // now you plead with the tamers: form your threnodies
hushed // overnight grit files locks, and by sunrise the rarest physician has fled \

To Dissipate the Abscess


A wind with the force of a dentist’s
drill knocks us sidewise
fleeing the firemen. To the left

the dentist reaches deep between his
laces and grabs
an angsty python from the gravel

lot. You can’t just do that sort of
grabbing around here.
Locals frown upon it, generally,

like spleens. Withhold that complaint
since he’s the burg’s
only dentist. Can you stretch

my legs for me (I’m too shy)? Jet
fuel’s made of the cure
for war, but jets hang on to it. Viselike.


You are so quiet this morning. Are you
still lard-bitter I never
gave a life for you, or even offered?

I can get you something better, perhaps
a periscope. I can sprint
on hot coals with napalm scissors in hand.

Sure, it’s no golden fleece, but my love
is in unspoken demand.
I’m negotiable. I’ve got a jet to catch.


There will be a bottle of uncapped sermons
surface-shaming you
from your dashboard as you jet across

the lake tonight. Follow abalone wires
to the cloudy back daggers
of the warehouse. Should you see

the crowded horseflies carpet-bombing
the bathtub drain, know I was
false, and am now a gentle absence.

My Apparat Liege, My Quarantine Flag

i. Formalin Years

My country, tis of the eyes skulking
beneath my couch. The horrors

of end-September rain down
from crossbeams. Goon uninvited

to the pantomime. For this was
the second strike, the world now hiding

in a gelatin helmet. One more
waits in the slow-broth. The city

bans diaries, of course, fuels bonfires
of feelings expressed not aloud. I don’t

mind the static crackle of the man
in sleep beside me, aloft on the Blue

Line, rubbing leg-to-leg. But the kids
I know want to swim in toxic waste

for DNA benefits, 21st-century spa.

ii. Malaprop Era

Mark him full of bullets for the cause
of conversation. Study pictured emotion.

It breathes, like cops with excuses. Votes
wrapped in crimped curtains. In place

of apologies, landfills sell plots
to ferment. Until they can afford the real

estate, gravediggers strike. The panting
woman fumbles black symbols. Drool

down the window to warn her. They’re her
jealous shadow, it eats her. Offers thanks.

iii. Glabella Meet

It would take a surrogate’s charm
to convince you: up for grabs is

authority, like a dry viaduct. First
to come, first served and protected.

The barber mock-trims your bald
spot but takes you down for another

appointment. Trapped in the quarry,
choose castle or cave. But once

locked in tunnels with a privateer
you seem panic-serious. In buttons

wrapped. A long dark glass of candid
nocturnals. Like camouflage, the dead

will rise with the vacant unemployed.

iv. Preparedness Kit

The red light stops you, imprisons you
for weeks on false charges. They planted

the evidence, such caustic ideas.
If you break the rules, starve for attention

or save time and die. To kowtow brings
ruddy fortune, so always remember

to offer thanks. This millennium
delivered the rules the last one follows.

v. Yellow Flag

Run parallel to society river
ducking into dumpster alcoves.

The golden rule is to eat the least
runoff. In the civilization game

creamier pieces win by default. It seems
of length but can’t go on forever.

Whatever is the doctor of penalties.
Solo rider on Ferris wheel, all the way

around, sir. This is his life in a rusted
circle. Watch the city shrink, then how

it zooms in to prey.

At times representing Monterey, Los Angeles, and NYC, AJ Urquidi is a heterogeneous poet and editor. His writing has appeared in various journals, including Faultline, Verdad, Chiron Review, RipRap, and DUM DUM Zine. A Gerald Locklin Writing Prize recipient, AJ co-founded online journal indicia and has led workshops at Cal State Long Beach and Beyond Baroque.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 18)


Welcome to Posit 18! We are very excited to offer this stellar selection of poetry, prose, and visual art for your summer reading pleasure. And we do mean pleasure! For as varied and innovative as these works are, we believe they are unified by a subtle and surprising kind of classicism.

We are thinking, in part, of the time-honored approach to art-making captured with such charm and perspicacity by Helen Hofling’s process statement for her pieces from Tender the Night, which “muse on roaring nights, given and profited from, pilfering mass media, art, the vault of my life and the lives of near ones, poking around the basement of theft and offer.”

We have in mind, as well, the equally subtle, surprising, and essential ways these works are animated by a sense of story. By which we mean Ravitte Kentwortz’s notion of the juncture “in between / things, the story, an act / of fissure,” “between / an anima and an other.” (On Notes on Wall). As well as the kind of verses in which “no one knows what is coming,” although they are “cooler than duke ellington / on a swedish night.” (Kwame Opoku-Duku, politics, the old head verses (ecclesiastes) 1-20). And poems that “(wavelike) swing / . . . floating free” to offer “a new view” of the “curvings of curvature” that we “rise / and fall / back into.” (Stephanie Strickland, Contemporary Physics 1). Not to mention works in which “the quest widen[s]/ the terms” (Jessica Lee Richardson, Art Hat), and “complicated strata of meanings [are] compiled.” (Ryan Nowlin, Crossings).

Whether or not, as Rusty Morrison might have it, the felicity of these stories was “found unexpectedly which is the way luck finds someone” “at an angle of unfinished conversation” (“as if imagining her thinking about me makes me real” (1, 4)), it is our great good luck to offer them to you now, in the hope that you will be inspired to take up the conversations they ignite.

In her solo piece, Lifelike, Devon Balwit considers the vitality of art, at once enduring (“500 years of hounds . . . gone to bones since the artist’s hand clustered the russet branches”) and vulnerable to the stultifying influence of reverence, “the mute solemnity of the archive.” In her powerful and disturbing collaboration with Jeff Whitney, History of the Knife, the darkness at the core of life is explored, and ultimately, embraced: “There is a knife in everything, in all stories of suffering, beetle to hanged man, finches at a feeder. Every so often, one sings.”

With “a mind made of drills” deploying “potions of temporality,” Laynie Browne mines the riches of language and memory. The resonance of these poems’ inquiries is far more satisfying than any attempt to answer the questions they pose, such as “how to turn twinge—to dawn? / How to rise up and twist threads together until they learn to cling—until—like letters you find your strand.”

Shira Dentz may not mean “to write a celebration, / not even in hindsight,” but the grace and power of her “still lines / waiting to converge” evoke such beauties as “the sky marbled with fat the trees/satin with delight” in these consummate celebrations of the wonder and power of verse.

Helen Hofling’s collage and text work both separately and in tandem to offer the viewer/reader multiple possibilities of interpretation. Her visuals are as fragmented and resonant as dreams, and as entire unto themselves. Hofling’s work makes the case for a poetry that describes the unsaid: ‘bird north bird the sound that silver makes.”

In Ravitte Kentwortz’s poems, the physical world is at once closely observed and commented upon by the multiple implications of her language: “a girl on a street. The wind rolling her faster. // . . . A plastic bag in the snow/skid marks hold it faster.” In these poems, the words wind, accelerate, fall, and roll through sense after sense, darkening in retrospect: “a girl before the bear/the bear rises and falls,” “the girl’s skin as it is skinned/ the bear’s head in a bag.” These images take on a gravity and a presence that live both in and alongside our own psyches, as befits these “stor[ies]. . . between an anima and another.”

In this series titled with Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s line, “as if imagining her thinking about me makes me real,” Rusty Morrison weaves the psychological, spiritual, and linguistic implications of damage and loss into a mysterious tapestry “throbbing in an idiom of flow/through the verb-form of pain” “at an angle of unfinished conversation,” which is no more nor less than the angle of poetry itself.

With concentrated intensity and startling vision, Ryan Nowlin considers life’s “dream of being and becoming” in light of “the palimpsest of emptiness / troubling your theory / of flowering.” Yet even amidst “the slow asphyxiation of light in November,” where “what failed to be conjured, / reality delivered with a shrug, murmuring bingo,” the moon is nonetheless revealed to “adore . . . the courtyard,” and a lost friend makes a fleeting appearance “in the margin of a dream.”

Kwame Opoku-Duku rouses our consciousness and conscience with these calls to “take off your veil & / get that look up off your face” in order to “see the prison camps for yourself.” These verses are spare, wise, and musical – even as they warn us against the seduction of “bought/status in the land of authenticity” in a life in which “no one knows what is coming” and “time & chance happen to us all.”

In the spectacular poem Meetinghouse, Jennifer Pilch evokes the paradoxical fabric of reality (“glacier sleep in 90 degree weather”) shot through with the unexpected and haunting beauty of deterioration: “snow sliding off // sun-stroked / degradations,” “long faces on opposite sides of a curtain/ wallpaper peeling like waiting onions.”

Jessica Lee Richardson’s delicately beautiful and hallucinatory “parables open doors” in which “you are skeletal in your blossoming” and “bent heads pillow forth with their sincerest apology.” Although “the quest widen[s] the terms,” who’s to say whether “the magic [did] the math” or “how to tell unfurl from furl”?

In Stephanie Strickland’s series School, a theoretically-minded yet entirely poetic eye takes a long view of biology and physics, exploring where we might be on the continuum: “Physical is always Special Case in/animate that slash that little twig that virgule is no physical threshold.” These poems suggest that physics, which is to say, reality, being “not a system/ not a shape” but “a Scenario       ever / transforming” might require less math and more invocation: “Maybe consult a drummer dubmaster houngan/ probably not a drum machine.”

In chiseled verses limned with sharp edges and dangerous insight, AJ Urquidi enacts the poetic equivalent of “sprint[ing]/ on hot coals with napalm scissors in hand.” In these poems which “keep apologizing to posterity” where “honesty fumbles in her bouts of proved worry,” we are grateful to be shown “life in a rusted circle” and urged to “watch the city shrink, then how / it zooms in to prey.”

John Sibley Williams may be “…looking for the world the world doesn’t like to talk about above a whisper,” but in a reality in which “we are bright flecks of light dancing into a back-drop of more light,” his dense and finely-crafted prose poems are as powerful as “clouds that cymbal and the swelling river and names we give to things that fight so hard to shed them.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann


And welcome to this issue’s selection of visual art.

The exquisite drawings by Dozier Bell in this issue are lyrical studies of light, sky, water, and land. Seen through her keen eye, the delicate nuances of the natural world are captured as it shimmers and glows through storm, sun, and fog. These drawings create a powerfully moving portrait of life lived by the sea.

The huge (5 x 10 foot) photographs made by Tanya Marcuse transport us into a universe unto themselves. Simultaneously natural and unnatural, her giant tableaux weave together images taken from a natural world in a constant state of dying and being born. The work is dense and rich with details. Step back and they look like giant complex abstract compositions. Step closer and perceive her intricate relationship with a natural world that is endlessly rich and beautiful.

Sam Nhlengethwa’s portraits of goats are examples of beautiful composition, design, and a kind of portraiture. These goats exist as both “personalities” and as careful explorations of form. Simplified shapes and often-abstracted gestures characterize these lyrical compositions.

The dizzying array of materials used by Julie Peppito has often left me in awe of the fluid way that she marries materials into an almost psychedelic vision of the world. Focusing on the political climate of the day, this recent work creates a visual order from a cacophony of images, ideas, and words that is both powerful and magical.

Adams Puryear uses mixed materials and video to make projects that are inventive, funny, and provocative. His ceramic sculptures literally ooze with a strange slime that is at once reminiscent of childhood (think Slime Time Live) and something escaped from a laboratory. The video images offer a potent contrast to the forms in which they are housed. Endlessly amusing, his work conveys a perpetual sense of unease.


Melissa Stern