Barbara Henning

Oh Girl

She wants to see us and we want to see her. This January has been the warmest since the early fifties. Time is longer and the passing unnoticed. I haven’t seen her for forty years. Except in the lower corner of a photo. I thought she was born a woman, but later I learned she’d had a sex change. Oh girl, come here, she says, swinging her hips. She feels like a teddy bear in all her clothing. We are instructed to relax the outer edges of our arms and legs. She puts twenty or so pills on her napkin. Fold up your sheet into a perfect square and put it on the top of the stack in the linen closet. Are you writing about me? she asks.


Yesterday was a new moon

In the mirror, my lips look young
and swollen like orange segments

The century’s turned and I’ve
lost my remote control


Just sit and wait.

Take this paper to the third floor. Follow signs to MRI. Oxygen in use. Warning. Do not enter. Strong Magnetic Field. No pacemakers. No loose metal objects. Caution. Magnetic field may damage cameras, mechanical watches, credit cards, recording materials and other mechanical magnetic sensitive devices. I cross my hands over my heart as they slide me into the tube and turn up the racket of ions reversing. The damaged nerve makes my skin burn. I count the particles in the racket, calculating where I am in this world of forty minutes. Don’t worry dear, says someone somewhere with a very deep voice, I’m looking after you. Most of the microbes belong to a species that neither help nor hurt us.


At the table next to me in Veselka’s

I overhear a couple arguing. You idiot. This judgement of me and you tell me now? I’m leaving here and I’m never coming back. Never? I don’t want to live this type of life. Don’t you even like me? No. How long have you known this? For years. You idiot! Get out of here now. Right now. . . Why isn’t he leaving? I wonder. The rustling of paper. This is supposed to be a marriage breaking up, the woman says, and there’s no emotion. There is supposed to be a pause after that line.


I’m a club owner. I deal in girls

Flats were popular in the sixties
I wore them in the snow
lately I carry my feet along with me

Hey skinny bones. You look like a bird
my father used to say. My first package
of pantyhose was stolen from Woolworth’s

A thought or emotion
gets stuck in the mental field
Begin to arouse her through fondling

It’s a matter of balance. I keep thinking
I’m sitting on ice when in fact
I’m sitting on my scarf

To a certain degree we accommodate
the whole thing falling apart
but we are not authorized

like the man standing across the street
to grant deferments or exemptions


Though every bone in my body says

go home, my legs take me to the seat right beside the woman I want to avoid. Today she’s sullen and silent. Having finished eating, she stares out the window. Be careful, I think, not to make eye contact or she will start complaining. Out of the corner of my right eye, I can see her rummaging through her purse for money. The guy behind her starts to speak, she sits back, perhaps I think, deciding to stay instead of leaving. They are talking about their cats. “Oh, my god . . . the only thing is when you have property, you can’t get rid of it.” She’s taking her pills and going through her bag again. I’m writing so small so no one can see it.


I remember running

I remember running across St. Marks (in this new hobbling way) to catch the First Avenue
bus. A young man was in a wheelchair locked into the spot near the back door. He had curly hair. I was holding the bar above him and I think my bag knocked against his head.



What’s that? Your piriformis muscle. Steven pulls up the skin on my spine. On your side. Don’t resist. Crack. Over. He has my necklace in his hands. This is pretty, he says, as he places it around my neck, carefully closing the clasp.


It’s so

It’s so warm and beautiful today even though we are on the brink
of the dark age and some say it may last for 360,000 years



There’s a thief in your house
and he’s rummaging
through your dresser drawers.

Where will he go when he sees
you watching him? Will he
escape or will he and you

become cage mates together
in some psychodrama,
like cats and rats, what is

the correct mechanism
to be engaged here?
Where are the theatrical agents

who can help depopulate
the stage? The chaos wheel
is gaining momentum.

You want to watch that
thought flee, but it becomes
big, looming, mad

and maniacal and then it starts
chasing you, your very own ego,
around and out into the cold.

The door slams, and only then
does he duck out on the fire escape.
And you,

you’re left standing
in the hallway, naked with a bell
ringing between your ears.


When I woke up, I was
in the wrong place, holding
a blooming dandelion in my hand.

I knew there was something wrong
when I completely forgot the script
so clearly encoded under my forehead.

The rush of spirit retreated through a pinhole
and dropped me back in this square room
with thunder and the sound of heavy metal.

On the other side of the window
the microwave beeped. A door slammed.
The tv was on automatic shut off.

The computer, some kind of advance
on cuneiform writing
was flashing the figure of a fish.

A drawing by Dr. Freud in 1878
of the neurons in a spinal ganglion.
Through the pinhole of that glassy eye—

Dr. Agassiz made his student learn
the truth about fish—
and I put my ear to a conch shell.

The sound of a distant oceanic voice—
“What is there is there. And that is that.”

I Just Found Out

Hello, I just found out
I have a heart abnormality.
Three teaspoons and six handles

of dessert spoons. I’m recovering
from a slipped disk in my neck
and a sprained wrist. Three handles

of tin cups. So I’m giving up
my exercise program. Pieces of
mattress wire. We talk about

different dietary choices
for alleviating our ailments.
Buckles and buttons.

Tables of contents and
bibliographies. Twenty-Five
pieces of glass. This one’s

interesting. This one’s boring.
That one’s racist. Thirty stones
of various sizes. We make

oatmeal and fruit. Six stones
from intestines after death.
Sixteen stones passed per rectum.

She stops at a hardware store
on her way to the subway
to help me look for a hook and eye.

The Beauty of Pigeons

In the dream, I arrive with the wrong manuscript
Kim Lyons stretches out on the stage smiling

a universe of analogies, homologies, and double meanings

beside me, a woman covers her face so her eyes,
though hidden, can see
we arrange our bodies
so that inner secrets are not revealed

a young man with messy brown hair eats dinner
with a headset and two forks holding his book open

at the moment when the first life burst into the world

we sleep one and a half hours past our usual waking time
then mother reminds us of daylight savings time

and Chuck Wachtel points into the sky at the beauty of pigeons

the most effective procedure is deepest sleep
or to be a plant, to sprout, to desire no desire, see no dream

like a blossom in the sun, one sound and we’re changed
don’t say anything, but that’s Madonna

at this particular moment which is the nearest to the present

in a secret, dark, ambiguous language
the trees in Tompkins Square, my big old friends, spread out

I release puffs of Dorothy’s white hair into the wind

a squirrel chases a bird over a branch
and hundreds of yellow leaves drop with that light crashing sound

if our mother were here, she would surely wake us

Barbara Henning is the author of four novels and eight collections of poetry, most recently, Digigram (United Artists 2020) and Prompt Book: Experiments for Writing Poetry and Fiction (Spuyten Duyvil 2021). Ferne, a Detroit Story, a hybrid novelized biography of her mother, is forthcoming (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). She has taught for Naropa University and Long Island University where she is Professor Emerita. Born in Detroit, she presently lives in Brooklyn and teaches for

Editors’ Notes (Posit 29)


Welcome to Posit 29!

As we find ourselves heading into a third year of the “cruel ongoingness” (Jared Stanley, Air is Normally Invisible) of this pandemic in which “we / are all held captive” (Burt Kimmelman, Cicadas, July), we’re grateful to offer this exceptional selection of poetry, prose, and art as a salutary and substantive alternative to doom-scrolling and despair. Much as we may feel like “[t]he chaos wheel is gaining momentum” and we are “cage mates together / in some psychodrama” (Barbara Henning, Naked), the rich variety of work in this issue offers enough wisdom, resourcefulness, and creative mastery to make even the worst of our “world-weariness . . . fade.” (Patty Seyburn, Against Weltschmerz).

Many of the pieces featured here directly address the experience of living during this pandemic, whether to “sketch out / this prison” (Rodrigo Toscano, 21st Century Odyssey), or to remind us of what persists, or might emerge, beyond the bars. But more importantly, all of these works illuminate ‘how we live now,’ even as they remind us of the inspiration, and sometimes hope, that can be found in what is all around us: “postcards // of French women smoking long cigarettes” (Glen Armstrong, Cherry Cola XVI), “[f]og – when the car light hits it just so” (Dennis Barone, Copious Notes), “the beauty of pigeons” (Barbara Henning, The Beauty of Pigeons), “a little treat, something bubbly but uncaffeinated, something with tropical packaging” (Elise Houcek, Whose Shirt Was Surely Fleece), “a vee of geese/ push[ing] south” (Jill Khoury, chronic lyric: corrosion), “white trees, forest- / dark trunks to no end” (Burt Kimmelman, Mid-February at the Parapet), “’Rent Me’ / billboards // on a ghostly interstate” (Richard Peabody, The Show Me State), planets which “touch on the lip of the horizon” (Jared Stanley, Air is Normally Invisible), Greek mythology (Holly Wong’s assemblages), the properties of light (Al Wong’s installations and videos), organic forms (Tamar Zinn’s canvases, Adrien Lürssen’s cyanotype erasures), and even the “dozen discourses // . . . vying / for your attention” (Rodrigo Toscano, 21st Century Odyssey) – as well, of course, as language itself, from “Aureole. Aurora. Antibody” to “Wreath. Zodiac” (Maureen Seaton, Corona) – not to mention “words with spit in them like ferkakte” (Patty Seyburn, To My Daughter: a prophecy).

Glen Armstrong’s Cherry Cola series documents how the themes of childhood and the strangest and smallest bits of the past – “the crawl spaces, / attics // chambers for squirrel bones, baby hair / and broken Christmas ornaments” – still play upon us in the present. In both form and content, the poems brilliantly and seamlessly shift time for the reader, as well as for the narrator and “sister” who, as in a gently haunted house, are the childhood characters who find themselves grown up and grown older, living still in the enthusiasms of childhood; living perhaps, as “[c]ircuses . . . [which] think of themselves as yesterday / while arriving tomorrow / night.” This time shifting has advantages: “Sister hears the trailers that unfold / into wonders, hears the / elephant / dreaming,” and the caring relationship between the siblings continues, preserving hope, even in the face of the foreboding future: “Hope or the way you have to think in order to go on.”

Dennis Barone’s lyrical and elegiac prose poems from his forthcoming Field Guide to the Rehearsal grapple with the frustration and wonder of the human condition, as well as the inspiration to be found in the “millions of facts in the night of knowledge.” These powerful, understated pieces remind us that “everything has to start: blue water in the oceans, for example . . . and endless charts that correct error and a fragrance that perpetuates gospel hours.” At the same time, we are “[g]hostlike,” “the batteries that hammer our steel in the shadow of an abandoned factory.” Barone also takes “copious notes” on the full range of poetic muses embedded in living, from the quotidian details of inanimate objects like a “coffee-mug with no coffee,” to the lyricism of the everyday: “a voice speaking and the listener not yet ready to hear it,” or “scarecrows. . . lift[ing] their faces to the moonlight.” And, in addition to the wonders of the imagination, like “a meeting with the speaking tiger,” there is the dialogue of art itself, such as “Wallace Stevens in winter” or “a melody: oboe concerto” by Bellini to sustain and be sustained by this accomplished poet.

Barbara Henning recounts the experiences of the poet living in the city, literally living the phenomenology of what she sees, hears, and experiences, written into clear moments of conscious existence. Like the drama of a breakup unfolding in real time “[a]t the table next to me in Veselka’s,” in which the narrator “overhear[s] a couple arguing. You idiot. This judgement of me and you tell me now?” Ambulating within and around her living map, the poet notes the reality of the metaphysical: “in a secret, dark, ambiguous language the trees in Tompkins Square, my big old friends, spread out.” Henning writes the events of life with uncensored honesty; aging and the ills that come with it, the shock of a diagnosis, then the mind’s instinctive turn to the visual and concrete, so much easier and more comforting to ascertain and inventory: “Hello, I just found out / I have a heart abnormality. / Three teaspoons and six handles / of dessert spoons.” And yet, Henning shows us we are timeless beings, too: “In the mirror, my lips look young / and swollen like orange segments.” Henning’s characteristic ingenious and beautiful enfolding of simple statement and stark emotion encompasses the very spirit of poetry, its pathos and wit. Her voltas bring to mind the familiar perception puzzle of woman and vase: “The century’s turned and I’ve / lost my remote control.” Wandering in Henning’s city of the mind, we find the depth in what we daily see and hear, and a hoped-for connection to a life profoundly lived.

The pathos of Elise Houcek’s prose meditations on our frightfully narrowed pandemic lives is leavened by their sharp and sparkling layer of irony. This suite of poems takes off from the non-events of pandemic life: grocery shopping as “a date idea,” a walk past a stone lion guarding a small white house “in this frenzy-ornamented town,” and the “deconstructed tableaux” inside the closed eyelids of a narrator lying in the “Saturday morning casket” of her bed, contemplating the possibility that she “would never return to work again.” These poems open out from the specificity of our myopic historical moment to illuminate universal challenges of identity itself, reminding us that “the real beauty” of the word for a certain failure is “not its clicking into this particular question but its clicking more generally.”

With lyrical musicality, Jill Khoury’s poems distill chronic illness’s saturation and domination of the sufferer’s psyche – evoking not only the isolation it engenders, but the courage it demands. In pure o, the poet’s wordplay and prosody give voice to a consciousness locked in a harrowing inward spiral of doubt, the “i myself in blame only / this self- / appointed pointed i.” And in these three chronic lyrics, we get an intimate glimpse of how pain can commandeer a life, becoming, seriatim, the architect of its “brutalist masterpiece . . . dollhouse;” the companion “lay[ing] across me like a crust — / dissembling, our easy husk;” and its fate – a hyena “pac[ing] by the front doorstep / . . . scent[ing] an abundance of gifts.”

With tanka-like quiet and perception, Burt Kimmelman’s short and intense poems capture the beauty of nature, and more. With their seeming simplicity of attention to ocean, snow, and wind at a particular time and place, these poems reveal the disquieting and impersonal (as the gods are impersonal) essence of nature, and the delusion of our apparent indifference, that “we no/longer care for/the dark blue sea.” Because we are human, we want to believe that somehow, benevolently, “The snow bounds, / binds us / to our pact” offering “stillness / to catch us when we / fall,” although the question is, rather, do we have the strength to endure among the “white trees, forest- / dark trunks to no end.” Perhaps, in the end, we are not really the actors on our surroundings or the engineers of our fate, relative to the “sun in morning / trees, summer heat” by which “we / are all held captive.”

Adrian Lürssen’s cyanotype erasures from Rudyard Kipling’s A Second Rate Woman produce visual artifacts of resonant calm and glowing beauty. Their spare and lyrical texts are salvaged from the yellowed pages of an old paperback, allowing rips, creases, and ragged edges to enhance the fractured glow of the few words left to float on cerulean grounds. The minimal texts Lürssen extracts are quiet and intense (“The City / silent and I / open;” “first / to speak / but / their / teeth / un- / earthing”), layered over the ghostly shadows of vegetal forms which bring to mind lithe aquatic plants swaying in limpid blue water, as well as starry night skies. Created in the midst of the pandemic, these works extract ineffable beauty from a historical moment as freighted and problematic as Kipling’s text itself. In this poet’s hands, the notion of erasure takes on new interest. Like swords into ploughshares, Lürssen’s excisions of Kipling’s texts answer a moral imperative, even as the act of salvage and the loveliness of its artifacts is optimistic.

In Richard Peabody’s punchy, plain-spoken poems, the stagnation and provincialism of “Banana Republican” American culture is juxtaposed with the synthetic, and ultimately transcendent power of art – not least the poet’s own. Peabody’s sharp, spare, unflinching observations of a culture in which “every highway / . . . is a runaway truck ramp” deliver a complex critique tempered by appreciation. These poems take us on a road trip that yields not only a “one-way ticket / to Biscuitville” but also a “walk / through / Gabor Szabo’s / dreams.” In Peabody’s clear-eyed but undaunted view, Susan Rothenberg’s abstract yet recognizable, moving yet mysterious canvases offer a critical answer to the “[w]hirlwind / in the distance” that it is “[a]s necessary and / ephemeral as that.”

Maureen Seaton’s poetry contemplating the subject of death is “astonishingly open.” The very aliveness of her approach, its humor, gratitude, and compassion, gives us a new way to understand the commingling of our pasts with our certain, inescapable future. This poet’s joie de vivre and insight, with the aid of the muse, help stitch it all together, from the youthful freedom of inspiration, the “words straight from the horizon where light begins // where if you wanted / to be quiet w/a hat pulled over your ears // or wrapped in a silence / even multitudes could not pierce // you couldn’t,” to desire: “the scrappy nuns warned us / from our biblical beginnings / that messing around with boys / would be the death of us /and they were right, oh God! / Now here I am, tarnished / as a sad old silver gravy boat” – all the way to the present. In Corona, a tour de force combining definitions with quotations from an early British 20th century novel, Seaton’s insight and contagious optimism delight and inspire, even when “the world simply continues to be witless in ways that involve the dying and the dead.”

In Patty Seyburn’s supremely well-wrought verse, insight and humor emerge organically from a sparkling amalgam of erudition and colloquialism, intellectualism and humility. In these poetic pep-talks, a hyper-educated yet down-to-earth narrator is “relying on the 7 Greeks for solace. / The 7 Greeks, and leftovers” to cheer herself up. That she loves “spatulas because they flip things over /so you can see the other side / and know there is another side” should come as no surprise, as Seyburn wields her prosodic spatula with sly grace, dazzling agility, and impeccable timing. Juggling references to Archilochus and broccoli, Plato and pump toothpaste, Marvel comics and homo habilis, fovea and shayna punim, these sure-handed constructions master volta after nimble volta, striking the bull’s eye of irony and insight (without a hint of hamartia).

Jared Stanley’s dreamlike evocation of the uncertainty of our world right now, in which “snow melts in the gaps between pavers” with “a faint scent (cool) / born in peacetime, fooled by permanence,” reflects our disorientation with the pandemic, the myriad effects of climate change, and our efforts to cope. Although we do what we can, and what we hope will work, “teach[ing] the kid to eat tubers and avoid roads,” these poems remind us that “it won’t help when things get serious.” And they do: “On Saturday my son lost his sense of smell” / it had no public meaning.” We are as helpless as “lungs in Pompeii, lungs in plaster.” But Stanley’s poems offer a prayer, a wish, that catches the shimmering beauty of the world and gives us hope, “crack[ing] the window enough to let him / glide through on a hairstreak’s back.”

Rodrigo Toscano’s new poems take a grave yet playful giant step back to reveal the universal nature of the social and psychological predicaments of our times. These poems “sketch out this prison” of our 21st century, pandemic-shrunken lives to expose the ways that ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ From sexual politics to aesthetic camps, Toscano looks backwards and forwards in time at the “constraints / and liberties,” the “ends” and “means,” the “rituals” and “vying” and “vanguards” that have been “retrofitted / jimmied / just enough to /make relevance.” These humorous, hard-hitting poems hold a mirror to our species, forcing us to confront the “sentiments, sediment / surfeit of silly stances” making us so “frisky-frightened” of ourselves, and what we have wrought.

Viewing Al Wong’s sculptures depends on our experience of moving through opposites like dark and light, as separate entities that make a whole. In his video, Fire on the Line, the element of time gives us a further dimension. Instead of the slow moving of time we associate with the pandemic, and the longing that it be over which makes it seem even longer, the movement in Wong’s light sculpture explores another aspect of time; its ineffability and changeability. We can suddenly apprehend a brightness like a butterfly or a falling star, brief delights that are somehow part of the whole. Throughout the film, we are held by the interplay of opposites: shadow and substance are interchangeable, sound is evocative, although it gives no clue to its nature, and we are invited not to analyze but to experience iterations of movement and color, luminous canes of light. We see and hear rhythms separately, but time makes them whole: a ritual chord of music, the shapes of light and darkness that make strangely compelling suggestions of icicles, wind, a fountain, a waterfall becoming fire – elements that embody both presence and absence. It is this harmony that Wong asks us to notice and delight in.

Holly Wong’s vibrant, dynamic multimedia works embody a synthesis that is as optimistic as it is ambitious. Uniting a wide range of visual elements and cultural referents, the interconnected multiplicity of her constructions evokes the living, breathing energy of communities, and even worlds. Suggestive of petals, vines, hair, muscles, and scales, webs, grids, nests, wings, and flames, Wong’s interdependent forms swirl, flow, and spiral outward and upward, unfurling from their energetic centers to float and reach, grow, and become. The delicacy of her interwoven forms reveals the power of motion, the strength of flexibility, and the resilience of porosity. Intertwining the organic and the geometric, vivid color and black and white, wind and water, flowering and flames, Wong’s creations synthesize the resonance of their mythological and cultural referents with her visual and tactile imaginative fertility to harmonize the past with the future, adversity with hope.

Tamar Zinn’s paintings and drawings come from personal meditation where breath provides the opening for the spaces in the work. In the drawings, line is the delicate boundary delineating separate moments, while always moving and exploring the space of the canvas. In the paintings, unnameable colors range from subtle to shimmering. Not depictions, but suggestive of clouds or stormy weather, the shift of these forms evokes the feeling of evanescence, while the forms themselves create the soft and mutable “lines” of the work. Formally, Zinn’s paintings touch on the glory of a Turner sunset or seascape, but untethered, as if they are the free and drifting presence of a dream.

Thank you for being here.

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

Barbara Henning


Feb 24, 2016

—yesterday in the 20’s—stinging air—on skin and in lungs—today 50 degrees—and raining—a lanky guy comes into class—wearing earmuffs—making air quotes with his fingers—the word “safe”—slowly turning the page—his fingers relaxed—hands resemble—my former lover’s—I leave the room—cough—a young man in the hallway—hello—must have been—my student—some time before—at 9 pm the storm thins—brownish fog—in the gothic LIU garage—weird weather—the outlook for 2016—gloomy—German business leaders urge Russians—uphold a cease-fire—in the Ukraine—all agree—it’s going to stay warm now—walking home—on Avenue A—a man asks—do you want cocaine—

Feb 25, 2016

—a full moon—wake up late—open my mail—a check—damp and cold—on Avenue B—the way to the credit union—an american flag strikes the flag pole—news from outside the windshield—an archbishop guides parishioners—catholic-leaning alternatives—for girl scout cookies—during the crusades—thousands of children marched to their death—children crowding—into the earth school—cut the ball back to Müller—guide it seamlessly along the ground—coughing—lose control of the car—slam it into the cement guide—along the ramp—in the gothic parking garage—all bully university did for the man—was ruin his credit—

May 9, 2016

—pick up the inmate—in the woods—off the Garden State—a week on the run—70 something—too warm—traffic dense—biking in a cloud of smoke—yell at uber—big black cars—the air thick—watch a man in the park—big black boots—white wrinkled pants—trouble walking—lifting his knees—one at a time—as if with a pulley—3 hours sleep last night—must drive a cab 12 hours—to get by—you’re killing yourself—with eyes closed—at St Marks—the podium poet—whisks it up—stiff peaks form—Don Yorty takes a swig—of vodka—then the chatty—New York school—backwards—and sideways—out the door—we go—at 2nd Ave and 10th Street—

Aug 1, 2016

—truth and lies viral—rampant hatred—an American man dumps—boiling water—on two sleeping men—a curfew to quell rioting—after a police shooting—if only—as simple as—a belief—in ancestors—in Madagascar—to wear red—at the waterfront—you may incite—an ancestor’s wrath—naked under a sheet at 1 a.m.—in Marquette Michigan—the night so quiet—the trees still—no movement—a slight ringing—in the mind—we can squash Mr. Bully—we can we can—dear mother—dear grandmother—please—send qi—outside a high pitched ringing—between the rising wind—and a chorus of crickets—all other animals—in this house—are sound asleep—

Oct 26, 2016

—when surfing in 28 degree water—or stuck in traffic—for 63 hours a year—your brain freezes—your chin gets stiff—no angry mobs in Tehran—shouting “Death to America”— No McDonald’s in Tehran—instead, a homegrown Mash Donald——dreaming—of a woman with blonde hair—chin length—at a restaurant table—with a younger dejected bully—hey, don’t worry—she says looking down at him—I’ll let you see em later—he drops his head—a sad puppy—so sad—so horrible—when the phone rings—we all wake up—to headlines with his name—oh no—and they’re just not true—he says—everyone must love me—digital twitter talk—can’t be recaptured—and you can’t bury it—it’s out there—scattered in air, on land, at sea—North Africa to Europe—Seawatch reports—2400 migrants rescued—four children dead—

June 8, 2017

—on 12th Street—the refrigerator—whines and shudders—in a redbrick Quaker meeting house—in Denver—undocumented humans hide—the cortisol rising higher—a judge in Virginia—declares—the Supreme Court will surely shudder—the bully sends a tweet—Kim Jong-un sends a missile into the Sea of Japan—the doors to the bodega open—the heart of a fruit fly—beating at the same pace—as humans—up the hill to 12th Street—a group of men—smoking and talking—Hola—we nod—one to the other—

In 2016, I bought a collection of writing and art by the dadaist, Elsa Von Freytag-Lorenhaven, also known as the Baroness: Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011). I pored over this book, laughing at the way she took William Carlos Williams to task (old observations minted wisdom). She was the ultimate beat/punk artist, scoffing at bourgeois society. Reading her poems, I thought to myself — they are like ecliptic telegrams to the world — pieces of consciousness—streaming—piece by piece. At the time I was collecting poetic material from my journals, arranging, rearranging and collaging in news from the days before and around. Meanwhile I felt desperate — as did many others — about the political situation unfolding in the country. The bully was not yet elected, but the hate on mainstream media was shocking. Then he won the election — how horrifying. Greed, wealth, ignorance and hate arm-in-arm. As I read the Baroness, I picked up her rhythms and started translating my poems into ecliptic messages. I’m nowhere near as anti-establishment or as abrasive as the Baroness, but her rhythms and her streaming appealed to me. These are “Digigrams,” messages to the world from this particular consciousness, at this particular point in space and time, translated digitally, from me to you.

Barbara Henning is the author of three novels and several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015), A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, she presently lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 16)


Greetings, and welcome to Posit 16! It has been four years since we came out with our first issue, and our new contributors’ page gets to the root of my gratitude — to the extraordinary writers and artists who have entrusted their work to this publication; to the wise and wonderful fellow editors I have the pleasure to work with; and especially to you, our readers. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll through the list — and perhaps revisit some favorites, or check out something you previously missed.

But be sure to save time for the gorgeous work in this new issue, much of which has a certain coiled and quiet potency, enfolding us in its figurative and figured fabrics against the “pale glove / of winter” — “because a legacy of facts / Tramples the empty pages of an early white snow tonight / & because the sky is still falling like a stuntman” (Raymond Farr, “Realism is in Bloom!”). Here you will encounter a number of more or less direct engagements with our alarmingly falling sky, including Peter Leight’s topical (if not literal) “Wall,” and Barbara Henning’s dispatches from our news-menaced daily lives, evocatively dubbed Digigrams. Other works, like those by Charlie D’Eve, Grey Vild, and Alexa Doran, grapple with more personal if no less urgent intersections of justice and identity. Still other pieces apply a calm and sometimes light touch to the grave task of “shaking [their] tags to wake the jangling chorus in [our] wreck” (Jennifer Fossenbell, “Preface to Salivation”).


Charlie D’Eve’s frank yet elliptical verses, juggling the harmonies and tensions of confidence and self-protection, advance and retreat, “the times when one part / wants thing / And the other part / wants Thing,” and “it’s all political all;”

the virtuosic profundity of Alexa Doran’s love-songs to the “half party, half sustained injury” that characterizes motherhood at its most passionate, which can be as transfixing and devastating as “a Buick at the back of my knees;”

Raymond Farr’s artfully relaxed couplets to the ordinary miracle of mortality, in which “life is big but not grandiose,” “History is a lot like life & the facts are a lot like / Our own lives in particular” and “death is a sink stacked high with dirty dishes / After we’ve eaten our fill of everything;”

Jennifer Fossenbell’s “Preface to the Obvious” which is anything but, popping with energy and weighted with foreboding, “sparked, in other words . . . Signified” by imaginative leaps and dazzling wordplay that entices us to “lean . . . in closer to hear what [she is] hymning about” and “call[ing] for a ritual, a cerebration!”

Jeff Hardin’s provocative interrogations of existence via query and negotiation with what “Stand[s] in a Center That Is Too Often Tuneless,” deploying his art to “usher us out of the staid and the worn;”

the staccato reportage of Barbara Henning’s Digigrams, a series of “ecliptic telegrams” delivering their condensed amalgam of happenings interior and exterior, optimistic and grim, inflected by the moral failings of our contemporary political moment, with its “truth and lies viral,” “2400 migrants rescued – four children dead;”

the vibrant tension barely contained by these excerpts from Caroline Knapp’s forthcoming chapbooks, The Hunters Enter the Wood and Tanzsprachen, mining the “ditch beside song where // quiet gathers” to reach “the invisible that / shows like stars” and “salvage . . . [from] silence . . . / a fixed and savage song;”

the sly and suggestive counterpoint of Peter Leight’s “Needlework” and “Wall,” their content embodied in their forms, the connective stitches of the first poem’s lineation juxtaposed tellingly with the second’s solid block of prose, reminding us to ask: “is this the only way? Will it always be like this? Or is this an episode that ends when everybody stops watching?”

these cryptic and provocative excerpts from Barbara Tomash’s forthcoming book, Pre–, mining the suggestive instability of “the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience” via the “automatic relay” of the versatile and ubiquitous prefix, “a temporary modulation . . . // leaping from its horizontal transverse axis / into a remote key;”

the wry humor of J.T. Townley’s “Dead Cat Bounce,” a Q and A of contemporary reality in which “we’re all enmeshed in a web or wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired” while “a bottoming process is being experienced” in which “switches might start flipping;”

the gorgeously screamed incantations of Grey Vild’s “carnal, carnival sun-drenched, scavenged throat of worship” of idols which “can only be flesh” yet “refuse to be flesh” like “chalk screeching down a bald board” or “a soundless thunder rumbling a dry sky;”

and the quiet lament of Nicolette Wong’s collaborations with photographer David Heg, the counterpoint of their words and images “reverberating through the blinds” with “the rhythm of rust” “in a room of dust singed by erasure.”

My thanks to them all, and to you who read this, for being here.

Susan Lewis


Welcome to Posit 16’s visual art!

Lou Beach makes the most deliciously wicked and subversive collage pieces I’ve ever seen. His universe jumps into yours with the antics of the creatures, human and sub-, that he creates. Beach is a technical virtuoso. Laboriously constructed, these seamless collages appear effortless. His sly, cock-eyed yet clear-eyed view of the world is both personal and universal. He skewers politicians with fearless precision. Plus they are just so damn beautiful!

Karen Hampton is a visual storyteller. Her profoundly moving mixed-media pieces tell tales of hope and despair, slavery and freedom. Made from stitched fabric, these pieces harken back to the tradition of ‘women’s work,’ and Hampton plays with these resonances to tell stories of urgent immediacy. She utilizes digital printing and hand-sewing to literally and figuratively weave together narratives that are both contemporary and historical, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to our collective histories.

The work of Bryce Honeycutt is intensely tied to her relationship with the natural world. She takes her interactions with the land and delicately filters them into exquisite artifacts. Her marks, whether drawn or stitched, are like poetic maps of these experiences. Her fluent use of a wide range of materials imbues the work with a sense of life. Rather than looking fabricated, the work seems to have ‘grown’ into the forms it takes.

Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantell have collaborated on an intriguing project entitled “Pages from the Frozen Sea” (referring to a quote by Franz Kafka). The photographic project explores the endlessly fascinating, ever-changing nature of ice as a material both solid and ephemeral. Their photographs of embedded objects play with the ways light interacts with the ice and the objects inside it. It takes a minute to gain your footing with this mysterious work. Once you figure out the construct, you are left to wonder, with a measure of awe, at this work’s marriage of materials.

Viewing the sculptures and drawings of Millicent Young, I am drawn into a meditative state. I begin to think of the passing of time – how long must it have taken to tie those knots, or wait for so much ink to evaporate? Her work addresses time in a way that evokes the creation of the earth and the very slow movement of geology. These pieces asks us to consider the possibilities inherent in ‘patience.’ Young’s use of natural materials and a neutral palette speak to her gentle approach to our world and her acceptance of the transitory nature of life itself.


Melissa Stern