Anne Riesenberg

On a Rainy Spring Night

They were both sick He was traveling for Work when the worst of it hit She was home with the Pets they weren’t talking Much she felt Guilty he had to Push so hard his Earnings so obviously What kept them Going

Her fever was close to 102 when he asked Would she pick him up at the Airport and it hadn’t Occurred to her that He would make Such a request she couldn’t Breathe it was raining and She’d have to stay up for Another three hours but Since he had asked She was stuck

So she pressed a little Asked him if he needed Her to come get him and He said need No but want Yes and so she agreed Knowing part Of her simply Couldn’t bear to hear the Tone in his voice when He thought she Was selfish

Another part felt backed into a Corner didn’t want to Bow to his need to Be sicker more deserving More something that would Support what He wanted or maybe That was all in her Head the legacy of having Done things she didn’t Want to for fear of Reprisal and so she skewed Ordinary neediness into a Darker story

When his plane got Delayed he wrote You are released from your offer And she was grateful She didn’t have to Push past her limits and Closed her eyes savoring the Value of imperfect Choices the grace of saying Yes within the context of Love

She went to Bed moving hesitantly her Skin steaming the sheets much Too rough and listened to a Recent retelling of the Trojan War saga how willingly the King sacrificed his daughter How faithful the Queen was to revenge

Two hours she lay There worrying about Him coming home In the wet and the Dark and then it was an Hour past when he’d said He’d be back and she was Concerned and sent Him a text

I’m just landing he said Will you come get me and She realized she wanted to And stepped into the Night the streetlight was out in Front of the house the Sky unbelievably black the road Slick with new Leaves

She wore her pajamas the Airport was only two miles Away the route almost Deserted she circled Three times looking for Him then Parked and tried to Absorb the late hour the Mist as it blew in From the sea

And then He was in the car and They were home and Resolution trembled Above them its own finely Wrought cloud

What Isn’t There

It’s dark in the room Her sister is trying to sleep On the recliner she’s Curled on a joke of a Cot their mother lies barely Alive in her Bed no food a few sips of Water some Indistinct smiles the Lights are Low the staff has been Increasingly kind and Solicitous all day They have been Attending their mother’s Dwindling breath

She wants to Sleep her body is pinging Pain zigzagging her limbs she Wants stillness a moment Alone in this overwrought Triangle of female Alliance today for the first time Since her mother fell She felt her guts shift towards Death a teetering extravagance like the Moment in labor she Knew she was Losing control

Her eyes had felt Extra wide the vista She was able to see increasingly Dimensional beyond Comprehension sensations Unruly unknown she wants This kind of expansion she Hungers desperately for It

She has just fallen Asleep she is wandering in A parking lot with rusty Old cars a howling Dog tied to a Fence she Can’t tell if it’s Mad or afraid When she feels a Hand on her foot the Hand pulls then Yanks her sister’s voice a Fish hook into her dreams She wakes the Voice says this is it She is going

She struggles off the Cot and goes to the Edge of her mother’s Bed her sister’s Tucked between her Mother’s tiny back And the wall She takes her mother’s Hand cradles it they Watch her breathe

Her mother’s eyes startle a Far off uncertain stare Knees pump up and Down like she’s running her gestures Faster more adamant Than seem possible She’s been Barely substantial for years gradually Her legs calm her Breath still shallow but Starting to regulate the Moment passes they Try to sleep

June light wakes them early Her head feels purple Amoebic nerves briny and Cold her mother Says good morning her Eyes steady as If nothing has Happened her sister hurries Over she takes a sip of water Opens the blinds

Under her skin the Lingering chill of her sister’s Hand on her foot the Undeniable absence Of her affection

Like Wasps Under Her Skin

She is waiting for the repairman to replace the furnace. He does all the work — reinforcing the wall for proper attachment upgrading the wiring removing the one that blew up. He tells her he needs two weeks to install the new equipment. A bubble of terror glistens inside her I can’t wait that long she says and he laughs. There’s a piece of pink tissue paper folded into a square inside the folds a mouthful of diamonds. Light from a window sends prisms onto the walls she smiles for the first time in days where did the jewels come from whose are they she wants them she really wants them as though if she has them she will be whole. In the morning the repairman accuses her of stealing the diamonds and threatens to have her arrested. She has learned not to defend herself in situations like these.


She needs to move a large object across a chasm there is a mechanism for doing so that demands measurement and precision she is not strong enough to do it alone so finds other people to help. Pete has a grey hairy back the whole of it inked with an arcane symbol she’s never seen five red orbs and a black scroll that defines them. Pete is another kind of man his wife Patty acts as his handler he is a wildcard and needs to be managed. They plant trees in an ornamental flower garden, flame-shaped elms to protect the blossoming vines. She sleeps that night in the bower when Pete gets in her bed she wakes becomes small starts to scream. Patty arrives and tells Pete to leave. In the morning her mind is intact but her bones have softened to rubber she is flat now like Gumby and very flexible.



She lies flat on her stomach at the edge of a cliff a beach far below ocean rising and falling against the rocks. She lowers kitchen appliances into the water with a long rope — a blender a microwave an orange Crockpot then a garbage disposal — she registers the differences in their weight by the burn in her arms as the objects enter the water — the garbage disposal descends quickly most definitively jerks her slightly closer to the edge. She sits up as she tries a canoe digs her heels in the dirt to brace herself as it falls into the water she can not keep it from entering the ocean nose first. She hears a sucking sound then a gulp as it sinks. When the tide recedes she hauls it back up it’s the tug in her arms she can’t do without — the interplay of heaviness and immersion how she assimilates gravity in her muscles and flesh.


The following day she returns to the cliff the president’s daughter not this president’s daughter not one she recognizes but an important young woman with body guards and a cloud of foreign dignitaries hovering. The daughter has lowered a rowboat into the water seeking a similar array of sensations the men who attend her are worried – she fell into the waves came close to drowning and they think it was intentional. The body guards ask her what she knows about this practice of lowering objects into the depths she lies down next to the cliff to explain looks into the water the water has become opaque the precariousness of her endeavor abruptly obvious.

Anne Riesenberg received her MFA from Lesley University. Winner of Blue Mesa Review’s nonfiction contest and Storm Cellar’s Force Majeure contest, finalist in the Noemi Press Prose contest, her work has also appeared in The New Guard’s BANG!, Heavy Feather Review, What Rough Beast, The Maine Review, Naugatuck River Review, Solstice Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Portland, Maine.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 20)

Welcome to the 20th issue of Posit! We’re truly delighted (if a bit amazed) to find ourselves here. And we’re deeply grateful to all of you (worldwide!) who read and view this site — and, especially, to our ever-growing family of contributors, for entrusting their remarkable work to us.

And speaking of remarkable work, the poetry and prose gathered here is, as always, as various as it is impossible to categorize. Nonetheless, as befits the somber chill of mid-winter, much, if not most, of this work grapples with the most ancient of literary preoccupations: mortality. Which is to say, “this absenting / presence, this existence” (Michael Tod Edgerton, Land’s End) — its tragedy, its absurdity, its beauty, and its generative relationship with life and art. The range of approaches in evidence underscores the inexhaustible depth of this subject, as a look at the work of Edgerton, Tyler Flynn Dorholt, Robert Hamilton, Margaret Hanshaw, Simone Muench & Jackie K. White, Rick Snyder, and Anne Riesenberg confirms.

Given this subject matter, it’s not surprising that an elegiac tone weaves through this issue — made emphatic by moments of actual elegy, for Philip Seymour Hoffman (Dorholt), Anthony Bourdain (in the visual art of Miriam Hitchcock), Catullus’ famous sparrow (Snyder) — even Damien Hirst’s decaying shark (Edgerton).

Yet in many of these works, the link between loss and creation gives rise to an understated but persistent optimism — a “calm exhilaration” (Edgerton) which leads us to “savor . . . the Value of imperfect choices” and appreciate the “grace of saying Yes.” (Riesenberg). This is true even — or perhaps, especially — in certain works notable for their silence. Miraculously, it is sometimes in the spaces between what is said (as well as the spare beauty of their language), that the most potent generative potential is located. We’re thinking here, especially, of the poems of Julie Phillips Brown and Alexandra Mattraw, but also, cousin to those ellipses, the ones made visual and tactile by Sonja Johanson’s botanical erasures, the lacunae of which give rise to new structures, even as they mark the destruction they highlight. Plus, cousin to both, Kelly Nelson’s novel translations, which combine departure and tribute to give rise to the shockingly, refreshingly new.

This is not to say that all here is gentle or calm, as a glance at the poems of Robert Hamilton, Muench & White, or Rick Snyder will confirm. Nor that only loss is generative, as Kathleen Hellen’s high octane recombination of language, “sprouting wordsinsideofworlds,” reveals.

But all of the work here offers something new, in the best sense of that over- and abused word. And we are the better for receiving it.

In this excerpt from The Adjacent Possible, Julie Phillips Brown’s “one” evokes the music of solitude. Although the “one” of the poem is so “unaccountable . . . countless, fathomless, and alone” that “words form as burrs and pits,” the haunting beauty of Brown’s own prosody “flowers among the watery veils” to proffer a “cloudself” so transcendent it “wakes as air.“

Tyler Flynn Dorholt’s elegiac litanies of urban living “put on a charge of hope” even as they “gestur[e] toward demise” in their deftly inclusive contemplation of the entanglement of self and other, survival and suffering. Focusing on Jane Street in New York City to “talk. . . about life,” Stoop connects the death of an anonymous pedestrian with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose while “widening / the blood to rise above character,” as well as a singer downing a burger “where Dylan sang / about Emmett Till,” insuring that “when [we] look / at what [we’ve] seen / the scene is [not] . . . overlooked.”

Like Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, Michael Tod Edgerton’s It Closing In It Whispers considers the inextricable bond between death and beauty, provoked, here, not by an urn, but by the “tender,” “erotic,” and “brutal” portraits of Francis Bacon, as well as Damien Hirst’s famous shark “scraping against the glazed skin of the seen” in The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Both poems featured here embody what they respond to: art’s capacity “to call out to call into / being,” compelling us to marvel at how “surprisingly / beautiful [it is] . . . / to be stricken to be / taken,” despite the disturbingly fleeting nature of “anything kin, / in the 21st century, / to transcendance.”

In Senso Unico, Predator & Prey, and Labor Theory of Value, Robert Hamilton sings in a number of forms and tones unified by a voice as erudite as it is forceful in its exploration of the tragic irony of the human condition. These poems expose a species prone to grandiosity, even as it — as we — are trapped by the ‘unique meaning’ of the one-way, no-exit (“senso unico”) trajectory that characterizes a mortality in which “the Ding an Sich cannot be had” and we are not “roaming the wild but caught in a little snow globe with our own figurines hunting a brown little smudge of a beast.”

The stark beauty of Margaret Hanshaw’s imagery confronts us with an existential solitude from which “there are no distinct patterns. / No lessons to be drawn.” What’s more, this “thrashing dystopia” is universal rather than personal, since “strangers occupy the same deep space.” Nonetheless, these poems remind us, there is comfort in the real: “slow light. / A purple ease,” one’s hands like “little balconies” in “the autumn sun.” But most importantly, there is the deep resource of the self, one’s “only house:” “a single mountain” capable of “diving / miles within itself.”

In Kathleen Hellen’s poems, what we do to survive “the tillandtamp of every penny nickeled, every dime a habit” may be the addiction of the lotuseaters, “a made-for-hope numbness as the tactic you have mastered as the happy ending.” Unless, they suggest, “the only way out” is “to be a trickster . . . a fairy in the dome sponging off the glut surviving in the storm and drought.” Either way, the compressed intensity of Hellen’s neologisms are as provocative as they are pleasurable to read.

Sonja Johanson’s botanical erasures inventively combine text with both native and invasive plant parts to spark a dialogue on a number of simultaneous levels. In Divinity, for instance, she uses leaves, Pincushion moss, and a passage from Taltos by Anne Rice to comment upon “this brimming world” of both the poem and this planet in danger of being erased by our own species’ invasive tendencies.

The chiseled mystery of Alexandra Mattraw’s poetry resonates “like a ghost echoing.” Reading these poems confers a pleasure akin to “taking some of the sea into your mouth.” In one of the two poems entitled /Vigil/, a decontextualized “I” “fells speech to splinters.” In the other, it “split[s] infinitives to / engolden dirt and breath” to achieve that great goal of the best art: “holding in / the swarm of things.”

Simone Muench and Jackie K. White mine the sonnet’s dialogic and philosophical affinity to offer marvels of precise, profound, and synthesized resolution. These poems consider, variously, the insecurity of female identity via “the dress [as] a liar laced with history’s lies,” “the desert [as] an armory of black tires . . . murder ballads, and . . . silence strung along barbwire,” and the “garden’s rot, obit, subplot.” All serve as metaphors for the darkness we must lead ourselves out of, if we are to reach “salve or salvage . . . Not quite song / or sugar water, but a wrought ripe, sunlit.”

Kelly Nelson’s erasure-palimpsest-translations reveal the complex delights of the bonds she forges — and detects — between languages. Their insightful and sometimes humorous effects derive at least in part from the juxtaposition of multiple poetic impulses, starting with classic American texts, and ending with Nelson’s doubly-translated erasures. The results are entirely fresh and undeniably her own. In The Day Lady Died, “I spun no feathers around your neck” derives from the verb hilar (to spin). In The Road Not Taken, “I pray to see the possum before it sees me” is the road wished not taken — glad as we are that the twisty paths of these poems were.

Anne Riesenberg’s extraordinary tales “skew ordinary Neediness into a Darker Story” via prose as clear-eyed and unflinching as it is dreamlike, and sometimes surrealistic. Always, though, “Resolution tremble[s] Above . . . its own finely Wrought cloud.” Informed by wisdom, complexity, and compassion, Riesenberg’s resolutions bring us to “savor . . . the Value of imperfect Choices” and “the grace of saying Yes within the context of Love.”

In O Miselle Passer! and Red Tide, Rick Snyder reframes the preoccupations of “high” Western poetic and philosophical thought within the most banal public spaces of contemporary life: waiting rooms. Here, Catullus’ famous sparrow is trapped in an airport “aisle / of plastic blue seats,” while the “bounded lack of boundaries” of extra-linear space is suggested by a fish tank flanked by a plastic plant. These poems expose the inherent comedy of the mundane, even as they prevent us from assuming we can deduce substance from style; their incongruous waiting room fauna raise questions as eternal as any more obviously “poetic” predecessor.

Thank you, as ever, for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann


The intricate constructions of Eozen Agopian incorporate many materials and techniques. Her complex pieces are like small universes, each containing its own private visual logic. Using techniques drawn from sewing and weaving, she uses threads and fabric to push and pull her works into three dimensions from their wall-based origins. Manipulating loose threads over painted and drawn color, she is able to create compositions that seem to vibrate as the color and form are in constant movement. They are intense and beautiful, the eye moving constantly over these landscapes of color and texture.

Judith Henry has created a body of work that will resonate with all those who commute on public transportation. The L Train, a heavily used subway line that runs through Manhattan and into Brooklyn, is a perfect device to use to paint an iconic portrait of urban life. Everyone takes the L train! Using an intimate format (5 x 5 inches) Henry has portrayed her fellow commuters with humor and empathy. Her loose and fluid painting style, superimposed over black and white photographs of the subway, conveys the beat of urban life.

We are presenting a snippet from extraordinary 12-year project, entitled My Brother’s War by Jessica Hines. Hines has sought understanding and closure on her brother’s experience as a soldier in Vietnam. Through photographs and text, both his and hers, she eloquently paints a portrait of both her beloved brother and his experience as a soldier and her family’s loss. It is work that is deeply personal and yet touches us all with its willingness to express love and grief.

Miriam Hitchcock makes mysterious paintings that hint at narrative, but leave the story up to the viewer. Her works on shaped panels capture brief moments of everyday life – a window, a profile, the gesture of a dog walking. Like visual poems, they reveal bits and pieces of color, form and idea which are effortlessly woven into lyrical compositions. We see the connections between her thoughts and observations of the physical world synthesized into images that reflect her contemplative worldview. In these paintings, I perceive the landscape and sunlight of the California coastline, where Hitchcock lives. Clear warm color, with a hint of clouds and sun, infuse her work.

The ceramic and mixed media work of Beth Lo conveys her keen understanding of both her family’s cultural heritage and her experience growing up as a minority in the US. Her wonderful images of children and childhood emerged in her work after the birth of her son and reach back into her own childhood as a potent source of psychological material. The gentle narratives of her finely detailed painting beautifully marry the traditions of ceramic pottery and sculpture with the modernity of her storytelling.

The carved wooden sculptures made by Hirosake Yabe are simultaneously funny, tender and bold. He takes the simplest of forms and gestures and imbues them all with a deep sense of life and humanity. His animals are particularly “human,” suggesting a universal connection between all living beings. His carving is masterful and bold, the marks of the object-making adding to the animation of his figures.


Melissa Stern