Christina Mengert


after Spinoza


That which is self causes

the mouth to turn in us

I mean that essence

of landscape when the interior

yawns                  existence, that nature

baked hard            as fossils

our diffusion only conceivable            if you spread

yourself into it, like light

into ground, into water                  this reflection

as existent as your lily pad hands.



A thing is called infinite

after dark          &  kind when limited

by edge, another

space of the same nature

(if there is a thought
to be weighed, it’s in your hands,
your sleepy, Dutch eyes)

for instance, a body is called

death when it is swung wide open

and finite because we always conceive

when we are least expecting, when

our eyes wander

the landscape of another

greater body. So, too, a thought

(I see you standing there,
back against the fire)

is limited by another thought, but a body

even his            even yours

is not limited by thought

nor a thought by body



By substance I mean that

climbing            angling animal

which is wild in itself, pure

momentum            and caused

through the impulse

of impulse

and conceived through

a nest of boxes

geological shelves            here

was this rock, this hand            this

bright burning sun


in other words, we are among other things

a conception

and can be formed independently

of any other conception



By attribute I mean            the feature

without which a bird is not

a bird, is            a crocodile, a carousel

red top spun on a white plastic table

that which the intellect perceives

by virtue of mental trampoline,

bouncing into idea as a consequence

of grace, my feet in your hands

my body thrown            as if

constituting essential substance



By mode I mean            there are many rooms

in this house, and we dress them
differently;                  the modifications

of substance              feeling a way

the slow crawl of being            genealogy pitched

on its hind legs            a calf unfolding

and you, a philosopher loafing in the grass

until it stands            an intelligence

conceived through something

more itself

than itself.



By God I mean our symbols

exhausted                  you say

a being            that is

absolutely infinite            that is

a recursion of meaningful geometry

a substance of infinite attributes

we regard like an infant regarding

its mysterious watery hand

of which each digit expresses

an extension, a greeting

(hello, here, please)

eternal and infinite essentiality

the striving manifest



I say absolutely infinite

considering how small the eye

of any mind

not infinite after its kind

and now

for a thing infinite only after

you raze it            raising


its kind, infinite attributes

a splintered mirror we call God—

this may be denied

but the wide eyes of your voice climb

a ladder of formal certitude:

the absolutely infinite contains

in its essence whatever

expresses reality and involves no




That thing is called free

when it pivots

both light and
its refraction, existing solely

by virtue of virtue

the necessity of likeness, likening

this analogy to one’s

own reflected nature
like a dancing fish,

by which action is determined

on the other hand that thing

is scaled            necessary,

or rather constrained          which clocks

its choreography in rivers

determined by something

like abandoned nets

external to the flopping fish

catching itself in            a fixed and definite

hook we call

method of existence or action



By eternity I mean where

might you go and when

might you return

existence suspended like

a photograph that never fails

to regard itself, though

in reality, everything goes on

around the frame

forming and reforming today

Dutch tomorrow something else insofar as

geography is conceived

as necessarily meaningful

to follow in your
light, wooden shoe steps

solely from the definitions

we carve

in the burning walls of oblivion

of that which is wrested from

eternal explanation

existence of this kind

extension into world

(wrangling a tea pot, felling a spider)

conceived as an eternal stop-gap


call it truth like the dissolution

of idea, the essence of a thing—

the photograph, and the child

dancing around it

therefore cannot be explained by

the writing on the wall, whatever

means of continuance we establish

for ourselves, or time though continuance

(like thought) may be conceived without

(you know)            a beginning or an end.

Artist’s Statement

I built this poem out of Spinoza’s definitions in his Ethics, integrating his language into the poem, sometimes trading lines with him, sometimes weaving his language into mine, or mine into his.

Christina Mengert is the author of As We Are Sung (Burning Deck) and coeditor of 12×12: Conversations in 21st-Century Poetry and Poetics (University of Iowa Press). A contributor to Tarpaulin Sky, Tupelo Quarterly, Web Conjunctions, and other publications, Mengert is also a filmmaker, editor, and faculty for the Bard College Prison Initiative.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 8)


Welcome, readers and viewers! We’re delighted to ring out the end of 2015 with the extraordinary poetry and prose we’ve gathered for this issue of Posit. It’s an honor to publish such a rich mixture of innovative verse, short fiction, and poetic prose by literary masters at all stages of their careers, to wit:

Doug Bolling’s Scalapino-esque “…words carried from a valley a stream a mountain / just to be there cherished, fondled” by gorgeous metaphors creating “a poem of unknowns / a Magritte refusing all margins;”

Susan Charkes’ wry compendia on Practicing Panic (“adopt aroma of freshly cut cucumber” and “elude infinity”) and Unreachable Planets such as the PLANET OF CONSTANT DOWNDRAFTS (“Gravity: not an issue”);

Norma Cole’s ferociously beautiful narrative fragments of a fraught nation kept together and apart by the ‘Surface Tension’ of an iconography of sentiment and violence, in which golden angels and grandchildren eating butterscotch sundaes give way to women sleeping on sidewalks, Halloween “or some / other masks beheading,” and “the mortars again;”

Christine Hamm’s magnetically surreal texts, in which “You said the antlers in the bucket were part of you, asked me if you should burn your necklace, the one with someone else’s name;”

Zeke Jarvis’s masterful short story about art, artifice, and free enterprise, Las Vegas style;

Halvard Johnson’s disturbing ode to The Art of Deference with its haunting last line, complemented by the resonant compression of 14 Interventions, in which “poem grenades,” like “old leaves,” “turn to / reservoirs of life;”

Carlos Lara’s virtuosic excerpt from Several Night, a “monologue of another destroyer” “ready for whatever’s next play” and populated by “numinous projectile clouds” as well as “music looping the dream archer of dreams;”

Anna Leahy’s “exacting forms” “pregnant / with possibility of motion” mirroring the beauty and menace of nature as well as “the spark of brazen imagination;”

Christina Mengert’s mind-meld with Spinoza, yielding remarkable hybrid philosophical/poetic ‘Definitions’ “by virtue of mental trampoline, / bouncing into idea as a consequence / of grace” via a collaborative “intelligence / conceived through something / more itself / than itself;”

Carol Shillibeer’s magnificent “loyalties to worlds, words and their pleasures…” posing the question, “What work has there ever been but perception?”

Danielle Susi’s brilliant juxtapositions, in which “Volume sleeps on my tongue today / because teeth can sometimes look / like pillows,” provoking us to wonder “When two sides of an abrasion stitch / back together, what do they say?”

and Derek Updegraff’s haunting and suggestive story Café, “about him and her. That’s all” although it somehow manages, in 350 words, to open itself to the far reaches of the universe.

As always, thank you for reading.

—Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


It is my pleasure to introduce another wonderful selection of painting, photography, sculpture, and video in this issue of Posit.

Meryl Meisler has been taking photos since she was a teenager, chronicling her youth in Long Island and young adulthood in NYC in the 70’s and 80’s. Her keen eye has captured moments that are funny, moving, and offer wonderful portraits of an era.

Helena Starcevic’s carved and fabricated sculptures reflect a distinctly modernist sensibility. Cool and stripped down to their essence, these are elegant objects. Working with a restrained palette, she conveys the beauty of the form, using the contrast between matte and shiny surfaces to allow light to caress the contours of her sculptures.

The haunting videos of Pierre St. Jacques delve deep into the psychological realm of human relationships. The Exploration of Dead Ends, from which we present an excerpt, as well as still photographs and video installations, is a beautiful portrait of a man caught in the endless cycles of his life. The result is visually stunning and deeply moving.

The sweeping gesture of Heather Wilcoxon’s hand can be seen in all of her energetic and evocative paintings. Strong and committed markings typify these works. Human and animal forms live harmoniously amidst swirls of color and form in compositions dreamily reminiscent of a life lived near the sea.

The sumi ink drawings of Katarina Wong are bold, thrilling and often a bit frightening. She brings us face to face with an Inferno of emotions that swirl and whirl across the page. Recognizable human and animal features emerge and then sink into the energetic darkness.

I hope you enjoy!

—Melissa Stern