Brad Rose

What We Can Name

I have thoughts, but I don’t write them down. Something is watching me. I wasted most of my luck in the daylight. Once, I saw a horse drown in a lake. I don’t think it was acting. A lake is a body of water, surrounded by land. Water has no color or shape, it’s true no matter what it does. They say ants speak to each other with chemicals, even when they whisper. There are 120 thousand kinds of ants, some as big as a bullet, others no larger than a secret. When I called the help line, the voice said, Please continue to hold. So, I did. I’m clean-cut, even when time isn’t on my side. When they answered, I told them I needed to speak with an experienced attorney, one who knows about the death penalty. Most nights, I pretend to sleep. That way I don’t need to wake up. They say anything that can be done to a person will be done. Go ahead, turn the lights back on. We only see what we can name. By the way, what do your enemies call you?

After Dawn

I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. Once, while hiding in my basement, I drew a picture of a whisper. I used an ordinary pencil. I had no choice. It’s quiet inside a mountain—coal-dark, the aftertaste of ants. Some people see God. Thirteen feet deep, I saw a hole in the light. I’m handpicked and reliable, no stranger to the undertow of chance. I’ve learned not to bite the hook that feeds me. Becky said they discovered human remains, but in a good way. You still have to boil them before they’re sterile. I’m an e-citizen in the digital world, I lead a quiet life. You can read about it in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems, or just send up a trial balloon. It can be any color you like, as long as it isn’t black. Be sure to keep an eye out. You wouldn’t want it to get tangled in the shadow puppets’ strings. They can be real mean. Just because the puppets don’t have bodies, doesn’t mean you can’t hear them thinking. Sure, they can be hard to hunt down, even harder to erase, but they’ll circle back this way, sometime after dawn. Don’t worry. This time, we’ll get them.

Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is a sociologist, and author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015) His new book of poems, Momentary Turbulence is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com. A list of publications is available here: http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/. Audio recordings can be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 17)

 

“What does love have to do with history,” asks MC Hyland in her poem, The End, a question which nicely sets the stage for the remarkable work we’ve gathered for you here. This 17th issue of Posit is a weighty one, to be dived into; to be savored. Many of these poems address identity and personal relation, contextualized. Some convey public dismay along with private encouragement, because, as Jessica Wickens points out in Department Store Days, “real life is still awesome.” Some resemble status reports, or instructions on how to move forward in a “culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become” (Paul Hoover, Chinese Figures) — a society guilty of “underestimating the underestimated” (Patricia Hartnett, Silos) — an “established order” characterized by “the horror” and “meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture” (Andrew Levy, Summertime Blues). Others address the “hidden interiors” of art-making, and all that is “racing against / its very own appearance” (Steve Barbaro, Articles of Capitulation), or its nurturance and conservation, in light of “the impossibility / of repetition” (Norma Cole, Ongoing). Yet, even while “[p]lanes arc overhead while history seems to plunge” (Hyland), there is good news amidst the bad, since who knows what “will ignite from / the smallest spark” (Cole).

Despite what Adorno identified as the “complicity that enfolds all those who, in the face of unspeakable collective events, speak of individual matters at all,” these works make the case for its necessity — for the necessity to “be the blueprint” (Asiya Wadud), “[t]o build a face from the materials of history” (Hyland), to take personal responsibility in a reality in which “no one is a spectator” (Hartnett, Complicit). In fact, they make the case for the necessity of poetry itself, whose “reaching keeps us from never nursing doom” (Wadud, my decent one). Because, as Denise Leto puts it in Mystic with a Dishtowel: “A hole in the air that empties air: this is what it is not to be able to read poems.”

Here, then, is the physic for that affliction.

In Steve Barbaro’s poems, an elegant voice contemplates fumaroles, insects, the desire to be away from the world, and a painting by Cezanne. In The Pond, narrative content and the composition of the painting blend into the dream of one of the painted “sitters” and then into the viewer’s own “fall” into the painting, “their face gradually mixing with the scarcely shown face of the water… not that one must necessarily see something to see, of course,” going on to muse that nothing can ever really be seen, “except as something racing against its very own appearance.” And in Articles of Capitulation, the narrator makes a revelatory/revealing inquiry into nature and self: “Is it surprising that the world flaunts only such coy hints of its most ominous flutterings?”

In keeping with the title, Norma Cole’s Ongoing transcends reductive notions of beginnings, endings, or progress itself, “unfurling” like a textile or an “ascending raga” to explore riches below the surface, like the Dunhuang caves they consider, or any “tumulus . . . barrow . . .[or] kurgan.” Like those caves, these stanzas are “placeholder[s] / filled with treasure,” charged with an energy not to be defeated, any more than “magma,” “carpels tough as nails / surviving ice ages,” that which “will ignite from / the smallest spark,” or the intensity humming beneath the quiet calm of this powerful work.

In magical collages that partake of landscape and anatomical section drawings to create their own genre, David Felix “balanc[es] verse and sign” so “we [can] scan the horizon.” Against delicate color, the bold play/puzzle of typography, in which the repeated ‘a’ in one poem marks the visual row where a “draughtsman’s hand had planted limes” reveals the perfect fit of “making bared,” creating a shared ground for philosophy and lyric to reveal that “Time is a horse in a field and no horse in another” and the future “is certainly not here with you and I right now.”

Patricia Hartnett’s philosophical/psychological investigations of the “harm and charm” of complicity, risk, maturation/self-definition, and the contest between mammon and the “unruly” issue their Delphic pronouncements with mystery and precision. To the exquisite sensitivity of a narrator “stranded out here in America / with everyone else equal parts greed and fable” on “another morning under the newly revealed metal fist of the grin,” the “harm and charm and hazard” of America, aging, and perhaps existence itself, “sound . . . down the body like an alarm” even as they look, as do these finely chiseled poems, “like brilliant kites.”

In aphoristic verses whose melodic prosody is propelled by a driving rhythm peppered with thought-provoking turns and returns, Paul Hoover considers how we navigate Time and art-making in a moment when prosperity means “everyone sleeps alone / on the ice of his choosing” and “no one spends attention // we’re overloaded now / every surface known” in “a culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become.” At the same time they remind us that, thankfully, “what isn’t is // what could be” — that it’s still possible to let go of the “zig-zag parade,” to “read the reader /and be read // . . . by the ones [we] / soon will be.”

Woven into the powerful prose of MC Hyland’s The End are the meditations of a “trespass artist” “trying to build a face from the materials of history” in the “affective prehistory of the crisis” of these difficult times, in which “capital sleeps like a shark,” we are “unmade by uncertainty and the theatrical rollout of the new order” and “joy arrives with a political undertow,” even if we are sometimes “buoyed by tiny lucks” — such as the pleasure of reading these rich and wise poems.

Denise Leto’s dreamlike poems explore a sea to which she holds a magical and “Mythical Map,” treating us to mysterious images like the “radical gloss of radiation” or a “face scattering the shorebirds.” In these spellbinding stanzas, a “Sicilian fishing port no longer maps” and “[e]ating is a womb…of those who are under” in a world in which the “church can’t think—it is more like a spoon.”

Andrew Levy entices us to gorge on his feasts of observations and pronouncements, exhortations and advice for navigating “another heartbreaking day” faced with “the meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture.” His wry linguistic turns and ominous bluntness bring a “kaleidoscopic return of clarity” to a devastating critique of our “unconscious sojourn dropped in final / spasms of dislocation,” even while reminding us to “digest and finish the mission, ride the fall” in light of “the small pleasures in the / wondersome by all this perfect smart.”

Laura McCullough’s stunning suite of poems reluctantly accepts and does not accept the difficulty of intimacy. The objects in the poems — knife, bulldozer, tree — participate like living partners in the despair. Marriage (intergenerational) introduces “a man … bending his wife … around something she has bent herself around all her life,” who then “gets this knife … if she likes… — one with a curved tip — and skin[s] her like she’s never been skinned.” In Marriage (wood and dog) the ordinary situation of chopping wood for the winter reveals the couple’s “separate fantasies” for the use of an abandoned bulldozer, “things they are each ashamed of and can’t’ imagine sharing.”

Douglas Piccinnini’s bleak but graceful verses contemplate identity and suffering in a world of our constant construction in which “you” (i.e. we) “”teach/your hands” with your hands” until you “become yourself in spite of yourself.” With spare lyricism, these poems land us neck-deep in a frightening, if universal, human condition in which a “house is like a house on fire” inside of which “there is no news at all.”

Brad Rose’s prose poems employ a laconic, dark humor to present a narrator who “lead[s] a quiet life” which “[y]ou can read about … in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems,” even while he needs to speak to an attorney “who knows about the death penalty.” One of Rose’s concerns is the act of thinking: “I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation,” and the way thoughts connect, as in nerve synapses or a cracked mirror, yet holding deep lyrical truth: “It’s quiet inside a mountain — coal dark, the aftertaste of ants.”

With an “exactness which / Takes courage,” Asiya Wadud offers prose and verse poems which glow with “a faultless aura” of embodied yet ethereal light. Like the narrator in Be the blueprint, each form manages to organically unfurl the precise architecture of its unique project, offering “this complete orb, this leaden strobe, this searing, direct heat . . . this . . . weighted gold” of her finely wrought prosody, “as delicate as a new quail cupped in [her] light,” capable of “fillet[ing] the softest parts // To glean the glowing parts” with the grace and power of “a quake on a tender fault line.”

The unflinching gaze and bracingly direct voice of Jessica Wickens’ “stories from fragments” find cause for celebration even amidst the painful reality of our existence. These poems remind us that “happiness is a journey not a destination” and “real life is still awesome,” even for those who “nap. . . on the couch at salvation army” and other “casualties of our superficial train” in an America that “is a nonstop fucker of / prosperity and peace.”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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Raven Halfmoon has a fierce story to tell. In her majestic ceramic sculptures, she examines questions of identity and cultural heritage, while at the same time making art that is deeply affecting. Her work, primarily images of women and their “accessories,” feels immediate and fresh. Big gestural marks in the clay combine with drips and flow of glossy glaze to remind us that the maker’s hand is always present. The work is bold and self-assured. These women with handbags, cigarettes and lipstick are not to be messed with!

William Eckhardt Kohler’s work harkens back to an earlier era when painting dealt with meaty issues such as surface and ground, representation and meaning. Richly painted, these canvases are admirable in their desire to ponder such questions, coming up with answers that are entirely personal. Kohler’s paintings are quite formally structured, while at the same time painted with a control and purpose that become an important part of the story. With a palette that is generally somber, he enlightens the visual stories he tells with hits of brilliant color, like the sun shining through clouds on a stormy day.

The sublimely beautiful paintings of Sarah Lutz dance between abstraction and representation with lovely grace. We see hints of what might be possible, like architectural detail, or a horizon line, but in these delicate works, nothing is certain. These paintings raise questions the viewer must answer. The open quality of the work means that each response is correct. Are these canvases scientific illustrations of an imaginary world? Are they landscapes of the mind? References to the natural world, as well as the history of decoration, abound. The resulting paintings are lyrical, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.

These Jennie Ottinger paintings are both hilarious and scary. They depict men and women (or boys and girls) in scenes of constant conflict. These works are painted with a deceptively loose, gestural hand, in a slightly sickly sweet palette; the color pink is used almost as weapon. Upon first glance, they could seem childish, but they are deadly serious. The people in Ottinger’s universe laugh, grimace, fight, and triumph within traditional American scenes. Her “cheerleaders” smile at the world through maniacal grins. The men in Ottinger’s paintings bear expressions of ambivalence. Perhaps they know their time is up.

The work of P. Elaine Sharpe raises more questions than it answers. Her mysterious “portraits” of hair are painted in such a way that they dance back and forth between “hair” and “brushstroke.” A self- described “pleasure- bot,” she makes work that conveys a passionate love of mark making, with seductive swirls and whorls of gleaming pigment. The sole figurative portrait, that of the artist observing her own work, hints, perhaps, to one meaning of this body of work, “Diary of a Seducer.”

Jerry Siegel photographs the world he knows. A lifelong resident of the South, he captures the people in his world with deep affection. Deeply saturated with rich, vibrant color, his photographs are portraits of people and places suffused with his own Southern identity. He is a master of catching the perfect moment that makes a photograph magical. He clearly has the street photographer’s gift of relating to strangers and drawing them out in his work. In their own way, the still lives are also portraits — of time and place rather than individuals.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Brad Rose

Note to Self

I am my own equivalent.
I’m named after myself.
I’m someone who’s memorized a secret vocabulary
to describe the future.
I believe the world is alphabetical,
that it’s moving unstoppably from A to Z.
Of course, I have to remind myself
that we see only the hands of the clock,
not time, itself,
and that no matter how far we go,
it’s just the distance traveled,
but there are so many directions
it’s difficult to know
which way to proceed.
You can stand perfectly still,
but the commotion is your head
is a red radio
playing all the blue songs, at once,
a box of nails nailed to a wall of boxes.

Once, I got mad at my friend.
It happened in a car.
It was an accident.
I didn’t mean for it to happen,
but it did.
Most things happen that way.
Even music, even death.

Did you know that hummingbirds sing?
They sing to themselves.
You can’t hear them,
I can’t hear them,
but they sing, anyway.

It’s like attending the funeral of someone
you don’t know.
You’re sorry they’re dead,
but you can’t cry,
you can’t shed a tear,
unless they’re someone
who reminds you of someone.
Then you cry.
You cry your eyes out
because you can’t help it.
You cry because they remind you
of someone who reminds you
of you.

Quarry Lake

Cement-dry August. All day, I’ve studied my memories. The past will not apologize. It’s a jeweler cutting stones, but not diamonds.

Underneath that misspelled tattoo, your smooth, bronze skin, a membrane of beauty.

On the phone, you declared, This is not my life, then hung up.

All those years I was afraid to swim in Quarry Lake, its anonymous bottom, like an unlit room, locked.

The police reported it as an accident. I know you were not afraid. Time running out, the underwater crew recovered you, just before their deadline.

Brad Rose was born and raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. He is a 2013 recipient of Camroc Press Review’s Editor’s Favorite Poetry Award and the 2014 winner of unFold Magazine’s “FIVE (5) Contest” for his found poem “Signs of Reincarnation at Le Parker Meridien Hotel, NY, NY.” Brad’s poetry and fiction have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Review, San Pedro River Review, Off the Coast, Third Wednesday, Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, The Potomac, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Common Line Journal, The Molotov Cocktail, Sleetmagazine, Monkeybicycle, Camroc Press Review, MadHat Lit, Burning Word, and other publications. Links to his poetry and fiction can be found at http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/, including his chapbook of miniature fiction, “Coyotes Circle the Party Store,” https://sites.google.com/site/bradroserhpchapbook/ . Audio recordings of a selection of Brad’s published poetry can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 7)

 
Welcome to this, our seventh issue of Posit, which rings in the end of summer with a number of works concerned, more and less directly, with love and loss. Although the travails of the heart are foregrounded in the pieces by Carl Boon, Joan Cappello, B.K. Fischer, Amorak Huey, and Simon Perchik, we also perceive a fittingly elegiac aspect in this issue’s contributions by Andrew Collard, Ian Miller, Brad Rose and Katherine Soniat. So, it is with the greatest pleasure and admiration that we present:

Carl Boon’s evocative narratives, seeded with unsettling admissions and haunting insights, in which “One of us grew older, / the other grew silent . . ./ as the children collided / with monsters . . .” and “We see/the moth imposed upon,/balance indistinct from flight;”

Joan Capello’s potent prose miniatures, inviting us into the narrator’s emotional core even as they pull us up short with their reminders of “hypoallergenic bed clothes” and tellingly developed tics;

Andrew Collard’s enigmatic elegies, which challenge us to imagine a world in which “loneliness is its own falling” and “Hunters of the paper-tin drip on like ages, / impart the finest ripples as they come and unbecome;”

Joanna Penn Cooper’s gracefully grounded musings on parenting and other intersections of self and other, infused with an artist’s sensitivity to the magic of an everyday touched by the “daimon, not demon;”

B.K. Fischer’s pitch-perfect, penetrating prosody, honed into verses as wistful as they are sharp, positioning the staccato musicality of “your chorus,/your orchid-rhymes-with-orange oracle, your/stiletto Geppetto pancetta vendetta latte/hottie” beside puzzles such as “what’s the use/of violent kinds of delightfulness/if there’s no pleasure in not getting/tired of it?”

Amorak Huey’s haunting deployment of the image in language as brisk and ringing as “I am the cracked limb. The lightning scar. The smell of ash,” creating a complex amalgam of hope and resignation, nostalgia and realism: “After so many/trips to any empty mailbox, even the sky/would fall out of love with the sand;”

The resonance and reach of Stephanie King’s sharply compressed, cryptic formulations whose curt simplicity opens into such mysteries as “I’m quite sure the groan is interior” and “This is a mental aroma;”

The concrete yet magical flash fictions of Ian Patrick Miller, touching down in Prague, Chicago, and Hawaii with a deft touch that offers glimpses of a daughter who “goes to sleep inside her lips, the mouth of secrets,” a wife with a fever like “a hived, winged thing,” and a mass of angels “heaped, quills snapped, eyes blinded, long sinewy arms reaching up for whatever has tossed them down;”

Simon Perchik’s poignant and unvarnished probing of the realities of love and loss, in which “the moon behind the moon/works its huge tides” and the survivor’s struggle to come to terms with a beloved’s mortality is “bit by bit broken apart/with care and mornings;”

Brad Rose’s stark combination of irony, plain speaking, and elegiac lyricism, giving us poems as memorable and disturbing as the Quarry Lake victim’s “smooth, bronze skin, a membrane of beauty;”

Gary Sloboda’s eloquent elegies to time and its ravages, including the (deceased) poet Hannah Weiner, time itself: “erased in a fine gauze of leaves, a tide of quivering stains,” and of course mortality: “our watchfulness and the abattoir to which the watching leads” – for all ephemeral beauties, including “our bodies . . . tending their evanescence;”

And Katherine Soniat’s elegantly crafted new pieces, displaying her “quick-silver tongue . . . always wanting one more eternity,” taking on scripture, which “drools and rolls over” for “these twitchy recurring regressions through sex, greed/and bedlam” as well as the hubris of those of us “upright one[s] – who think ourselves first and foremost, especially while writing poetry.”

As ever, thank you for reading, and our special thanks to our contributors (past, present, and future) for entrusting their extraordinary work to Posit.

—Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

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It is my pleasure to introduce the visual art of Posit 7.

Working in the genre of ‘official’ portraiture, Carl LeMieux presents us with images of our American presidential pantheon unlike any commissioned by the White House. They are funny, irreverent and revealing of the mythos surrounding each of them.

The objects Matt Mitros creates are a combination of scientific experiments gone sideways and a science fiction vision of the world. Surreal and beautiful, they seem to be born of their own universe.

Similarly, Chris Motley has taken the craft of knitting and elevated the process into the realm of contemporary sculpture. Reminiscent of the natural world, her biomorphic forms delight us with their surprising marriage of humble materials and sophisticated conceptualization.

Mark Perlman’s beautifully composed abstract paintings are deliciously lyrical. Color and line move in a syncopated way that juxtaposes fragments of pattern and form in richly layered surfaces.

Chris Schiavo’s unaltered iPhone photographs of the New York City subway have a fevered, dreamlike quality. Presenting bits of recognizable images poking through abstracted patterns of light and line, they capture the rhythm and energy of a metropolitan population on the move.

Enjoy!

—Melissa Stern