Deborah Poe

Proun (fifth)


You play in Atlantic waves with a father in limitless space; his arms, your toes, safety in sand.

Bodies in bathing suits span three dimensions.

The observer, a child, elates the frame.

Helmet cradles head on passing plane. Reverse vertigo averts sovereign gaze.

Beloved memories conflict what in these spaces, contrail lines, linear enough to act as ground.

Foundations, a simultaneous tug and shove, movement seen by angles, sharper lines.

You don’t have to understand. What is lost when you ask why.


Mechanism and metaphor constrain one another.

Then they’re business proposals.

The woman, windowed, stands at architecture’s edge—arch(es) in the frame.


A penny heads up a message as much as the one heads down.

Languages that aggregate, beyond radicals and with tones.

Paris, Houston, Portland—events that fold back on themselves.

You understand the continuous surface as multiplication watching rain bounce off the pavement envisioning milepost as Mobius strip.

Proun (seventh)


You shape the letters to resemble conglomerations of contours found in natural scenes.

Such characters articulate the landscape.

Look at the root; it says to speak or pronounce. From whence the Word of God. Identical to bee.

Buzzing above layers in the soil, trees circle, wide enough to cask the time.

Lumberguts, sheet rock, sap, a building and simultaneous decay, a lush green.

You don’t have to connect dirt to language. But the histories cave right there.


Memory and soil serve one another.

Then they’re the wild frontier.

The posse, gathered—inferotemporal cortex at the encode corral.


Epitaphs point to bodies grabbed by earth.

A caretaker gestures above the grass.

Summer, demolition, cemetery—mortared and undone.

You understand these ants, the frantic movement beyond stillness they cement.



For Proun (seventh), the following quote from Oliver Sack’s The Mind’s Eye was key:

“Changizi, et al. have found similar topological invariants in a range of natural settings, and this has led them to hypothesize that the shapes of letters ‘have been selected to resemble the conglomerations of contours found in natural scenes, thereby tapping into our already-existing object recognition mechanisms.’” (74)

“Buzzing above layers in the soil, trees circle, wide enough to cask the time” appeared in a letterpress edition of 30, created by Deborah Poe at The Windowpane Press in Seattle.

Artist’s Statement

I discovered El Lissitzky’s Proun at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University in March of 2013. The term drew me in, making me think at once of prose and noun. Proun is a term El Lissitzky’s coined, which he once defined as “the station where one changes from painting to architecture.” When I found Lissitzky’s definition, I was thrilled to think of the proun relative to memory and place. Though his definition was fairly ambiguous, it possessed a decidedly spatial quality, and the aspect of “translating” from one medium to another interested me greatly. I decided at the museum to write my fourth section of keep as “prouns,” wherein I attempted to translate the spatial—the canvas of place(s)—to language on the page.

Deborah Poe is the author of the poetry collections the last will be stone, too (Stockport Flats), Elements (Stockport Flats), and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords), as well as a novella in verse, Hélène (Furniture Press). Deborah Poe is associate professor of English at Pace University, where she directs the creative writing program and founded and curates the annual Handmade/Homemade Exhibit.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 5)


Welcome to Posit 5!

In this issue we are proud to feature literary and visual work by many rising, as well as gloriously risen, stars. As ever, we offer a range of literary aesthetics and approaches, from excerpted book-length projects by Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton, Jane Lewty, and Deborah Poe, to short fiction by Luke Whisnant. This issue also showcases the poetic potential of the long prose line, put to innovative and distinctive use by Stephanie Anderson, Rob Cook, Kristina Marie Darling, Vanessa Couto Johnson, Bobbi Lurie, and Zach Savich.

We hope you enjoy:

Stephanie Anderson’s delightfully surreal and surprising Ditties, in which “everyone sits in the yo-yo park, staring at the buds,” and we are playfully invited to “look up the appendix” but warned not to “ride in the wrong direction”;

Marcia Arrieta’s gossamer constructions, at once contemplative, startling, and forlorn, in which “everything is dreadfully calm,” “deer come and graze on [her] bed,” and the narrator “often feel like an orphan”;

Rob Cook’s somber, foreboding poems in which he informs us of “the screams where I went / looking / for the clothes / my mother wore”;

Kristina Marie Darling’s wittily slant re-imaginings of nostalgic iconographies of femininity, charting their magical courses “from Iceland to Finland to anxious”;

Vanessa Couto Johnson’s wise wordplay delivered via statements that “think with the delicate,” awakening us to the mystery and ambiguity of our own existence, in which “the heart is not a pound but an apothecary dispensing needs”;

Jane Lewty’s “Spatio-Temporal [Re]Mix” of aural and visual referents amalgamated with precision and care into poems of musicality and provocative design, resonant with “a strange elation,/the skitter guilt of/achievement”;

Bobbi Lurie’s dense and powerful evocations of strength in the face of pain, shunning what is “fake as plastic shrubs” to reveal “how much the pursued is pursuant upon/a clause in the material fabric of a lie” with “the skill to slice whatever needs to”;

Nils Michals’ prose poems, teasing us with the contents of boxes: “an entire forest, petrified white, whereby the occasional breeze stirs the crowns” and something “unclaimed . . . is gifted to the Church in the name of a holy work that shall be unnamed”;

Deborah Poe’s quiet, serene “prouns:” elegant transformations of space to states of being we “don’t have to understand” although we are led to consider “[w]hat is lost when you ask why,” and assured that we “don’t have to connect dirt to language, But the histories cave right there”;

Zach Savich’s spare, starkly simple nuggets of imagist magic, demonstrating that “the things I like are the things that happen,” in other words, why “pleasure educates”;

Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton’s feminist appropriation of classical oral tradition in which “women’s work is never shunned” and “the skies [keep] circling the/liberated hearth” where the female body is sung by its self and she/we can feel genuinely “welcome to the symposium”;

and Luke Whisnant’s post-apocalyptic flash fiction about a mandolin virtuoso in whose “music [resides] the anguished song of a headless doll and the rubato stagger of a cripple’s broken crutch.”

Thank you for reading!
Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 5!

Made from found and fabricated objects, Mari Andrews’ sculptures delicately dance the line between nature and nurture, form and object. Each piece suggests a multitude of possible references. At once open-ended and concrete, her works are bits of sculptural poetry.

Kevin Brisco’s series “Build” presents a world of young men at work with muscular energy, both literally and imagistically. The raw materials that his images are painted on – wood, tape, and sheetrock – interact with the subject matter in a way that comments on the process and the product of a creative life.

The fact that Marcus Leatherdale uses the English colonial name for the Indian sub-continent, “Bharat,” in the title of this stunning photographic essay gives more than a clue as to its intent. This reference to India’s past jives perfectly with these elegant and haunting portraits of his friends and neighbors, imbued as they are with such a feeling of timeless nostalgia.

Oriane Stender’s work plays with the imagery and the objects of our material world. Using US currency and found paper, she sews, weaves, and paints these sly commentaries on the cultural interplay of commerce and art, image and meaning.

And finally, the video artworks by Tim Tate, elegantly framed in handmade glass, conjure the bits and pieces of half-remembered dreams. Their inhabitants share a moment with us and then, poof — they’re gone.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern