Dennis Barone

Vast Oculus

Away from the window there is no searing flash of light. It is enough to stop the blows of the compass. Images upon an inkwell, it is all very confusing and mute resignation accompanies this section, the sunlight and fresh air. At the shop attached to the assembly hall we used to sing with a weary expression anything that made us feel excitement. Another world existed beyond the armchair — like the point of a rapier! Yet I was happy and seemed somewhere beyond the horizon. Who knew the tremendous emphasis placed on school? The ditch-digger managed to smile. Away from home I was restless, brooding, and took to wandering the streets. The doctor had gone and I started munching a sandwich. Experience taught us to discuss success, but the words would not come. The idea was that in everything new we have free passage. Once more life in a metropolis existed between excitement and a bored waiting for half that amount, two pages well-translated. What exactly fascinated and tormented children? It was the same old story. Shortly before, we finally got around to an important lesson which could never be bound to money. It was good enough for the outside world. It was as if the church might scheme to stay on with last-minute comments. It was the short-answer type of question and the place upside down. It was the accumulated dead and the boys working longer for a few barrels down in the cellar. This neighborhood of problems and casual talk: the beautiful new costumes, the days of tension and struggle. The deciding factor fetched downstairs among salves and dance halls. All this was in addition to those dishes still avoided at lunchtime. See how eager they become? Strike home with the truth, something preying on the mind for a long time. It was here in the new building until late in the evening and the students had walked out in protest. But the crowd and the police and the teachers, everyone had an uneasy feeling that somehow the permanent record would be marked in pencil.

He came without money which means defeat sometimes. He was, in fact, lean and sickly. Beside his bed, there was a child. He was forced to stay in bed. It was a horrible thing that he had to do: the immobile furniture, the weight of sunken desires, and a sort of silence that happens every day. In every house by the windows the heart remains in the night something wrong as if dust and brushes. There are some flowers on the window sill, a tangle of unmown grass. One fellow goes away from the world, gets up with scattered ash. Another voice says not to fear the truth, to understand the neighbor, the houses, and this land. Don’t say, here it is and God-knows that’s why and of course! He may dream a sky, a grey mirror over the vault, a whole day at the bottom of laughter, reeds and geraniums. And look, is he going to gesture open-eyed and independent? In the darkness he’ll be irresponsible then bewildered by sudden light. And, as if this were not enough, the continual uproar of a blast furnace meddles and nags this damning sentimentality of personal tragedy. He cannot let others talk. He doesn’t see sweet words, these features of a face in the air and old worlds meant to be obvious and noisier then any required simplicity, an apology to the admired fine slang of tenderness and hope. But we are not through. Let’s open the words themselves, a word moldy and trotting on, anything — the wrangle of sleep and dogma and color, the sky, the utterly impractical necessary. He was born and he has lived a little bit with the emptiness of forgotten inky pens.

The world originated in ferment. Nor was this all. Talk emerged in a pure unadulterated form. There are elements held out to decipher between them a fitting memorial, a spin-off of the true practice. Birds by any standard prospered as a force to contend with until too many years later they became our last resort. Reaching out to the suburbs had managed to be discovered and that welcomed their nests wide. They had no pressing business and would neglect social compromise. In no case was it said that certain food needed to be served; that they eased themselves over monuments and lost count at feasts. What is noticeable between tradition and a lone voice crying against abuse needs to be added to so many perfect gemstones. Let us cast some of this in more sophisticated terms. Elites by and large must be seen as overtures to a creative and decorous order, an assortment of friends. And they mutely support an old esteem for nature but keep community gifts bound to their paper creations. Seen in this context, exalted reason advances enough of us to force all creation toward the very best. To pick a rose works through their efforts nearly all of the hours. Closest of all as a model are the fateful syllables, the generalized ethos of this wood and that holiday. Turn back the dedication and continually use the already-cited names, the best construction that can be made of its marble so violated and brought to our chests. The fields in the first two verses have been a source of great pride for us and the last line may be intentional — a bearer of joy — or simply abandoned for a song.

It is not difficult to know what place makes us examine our remaining books. These works have everything palpable and known, a harmony that makes us forget the incontestable. We leap from the enormous weight and follow ideas without bodies: poetry. Let us then lose the world. Memory holds the rattle and peaceful feelings. A few words become embroidered in thought that should be a nest, a house. If we want to find such spectacles spoiled, then stray from each letter. Everything goes straight to the fireworks when we remember who said suffer horror, nothing positive, whatever. Then bitterness and fear unite in thoughts that start here in front of a better heart, the very best one. We make the spirit, the other roads into shadow; the glow and the fire. We speak of air and the moment igniting. We go into the step that reverberates like white wheels that will never diminish the surface of the day. Under us, this sun and yours too — space, everything, an infinite spin.

Dennis Barone is the editor of Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776 (Wesleyan University Press 2012) and the author most recently of Sound / Hammer (Quale Press 2015) and Beyond Memory: Italian Protestants in Italy and America (SUNY Press 2016).

Editors’ Notes (Posit 13)

 

Spring may be imminent, but, as will likely be the case for some time to come, this issue of Posit arrives in less-than-optimistic times. However, once again, the work in this issue has the potential to address, and even salve, our pervasive distress, in ways that are no less satisfying for being indirect. Much of the art in this issue is about making — and all of it makes the case for the value of its having been made. Which is to say, for the value of art itself — not as luxury, as the current US regime might have it — but as emotional, intellectual necessity. One facet of which is its uncanny capacity to speak to situations that did not exist when it was created. Although the poetry and prose in this issue was written before the advent of the current political crisis, many of these pieces find a way to speak to it. Thus, that “we have somehow, / in haste and hubris, walked / into a deep night” is, unfortunately, incontestable (Matthew Burns, The Border). As is the fact that “even sanity ain’t sane today” (Anselm Berrigan, Degrets). Or that we are asked to believe that “once spoken, every word is true, even / all the words yoked to great chains of lies” (Gregory Crosby, The Marquis of Sad).

Happily, the works in this issue also have “a harmony that makes us forget the incontestable” (Dennis Barone, Vast Oculus). For one thing, we are reminded “not to fear the truth, to understand the neighbor, the houses, and this land” (Vast Oculus). And we are offered the grave and ethereal beauty of G.C. Waldrep’s “root & its entourage / ark-in-the-forest, / zither-lit & -strung” (first person). We are exhorted, with ringing, if enigmatic, energy, to “substitute optimistically!” (Rae Armantrout, Going Somewhere). Which I take the liberty of interpreting, at least in part, as an injunction to continue making, and imbibing, the arts, including:

Rae Armantrout’s tantalizing chains of Delphic utterances, guiding our gaze in “the fullness of time” from the spare beauty of the resonant particulars to the universes coiled within them, bringing to mind Bashō, W. C. Williams, Hansel and Gretel, and the inspiriting newborn whose “just opened eyes / see we can’t see what;”

Dennis Barone’s Vast Oculus, opening its generous aperture from the tangible familiar to “another world . . . beyond the armchair — like the point of a rapier” in prose that captures the ultimate essence of poetry, “leap[ing] from the enormous weight” of reality to “follow ideas without bodies;”

The urgent yet playful poetics of Anselm Berrigan’s Pregrets, Degrets, and Regrets, which may not expect “fragment bump” but delivers that and more, “revers[ing] the outer corners until specific arrival” of something very much like revelation “mandates itself / into existence” despite the possibility that there may be “no time for poems / with all this e-sociology poised to bite in disparate / need of absolute paragons;”

Matthew Burns’ lithe and slender verse columns exploring absence and corporeality, boundaries and trajectories, hope and despair: “zero / being nothing / but, like / the past: / still there / and affecting” as these spare and melancholy verses;

James Capozzi’s eerily relevant evocations of the demise of the mighty, from Nimrod, “basted by the city’s voice” to the conquistadores, having lost the nerve to defend their “sham heaven” in the face of the “troubling questions” posed by the earth they have just torched;

Rob Cook’s sharp yet lyrical elegies to the existential divide between self and other, be they one’s own shadow or the companion of one’s dreams, until even “the wind is just my shadow / moving its weapons from tree to tree;”

Gregory Crosby’s aphoristic verses masterfully evoking the pathos and humor of existence in which “[a]ll this death [is] another sticky note: Live!” in a universe “so / magnanimous that it breaks your heart in two;”

Julia Leverone’s exploration of the paradoxical interdependence of creation and destruction, adhesion and repulsion, as voiced by an unregretful Medusa hoping “never to return to the beforehand” and a lover observing the “force of keeping / together against pulling away;”

Caolan Madden’s penetrating exploration of isolation, “[t]he silence, the league of witches . . . that unclaimed feeling,” along with the ambivalence of a mother who doesn’t “want to grow up I want to spoil” rather than “fold . . . up her I” “when [the baby] made [her] shape known;”

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s prose poems from Leafmold, an inventory of poetic makings, including dogs and doctors, hawks and herons, history and science, “[i]naccuacies and errata smuggled via alternate versions of this weird life” brilliantly assembled, not “to deliver something heinous . . . but a text like a free state, a paregoric of the brain;”

Alina Stefanescu’s high-octane prose pieces expanding from a sense of lived experience (insomnia, scars, selfies) to wider implications in “this era of anodyne-paradigms pocked upon our model houses” where “a promise might be less than an omen as a toothache is less than a broken jar as a head circles the room without one single landing strip in sight;”

and G.C. Waldrep’s elegant, emotionally charged jewels of melodic and depictive compression, “lobed with the literal,” in which “the dream sweeps / through, & puts music away–,” evoking worlds in each parsed and potent word — luminous worlds in which meaning and music are not only married, but inseparable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the Posit team. Carol Ciavonne is an accomplished poet, teacher, editor, and past contributor, who promises to bring discernment, dedication, and generosity to her work as Associate Editor. We are delighted and grateful to welcome her aboard.

With thanks to you, our readers, for being here.
Susan Lewis

positInkSpash131210.small

Welcome to the visual art of Posit 13!

Nathan Brujis makes lyrical and luscious abstract paintings, loosely based on nature and autobiographical experience. Working in a rich palette of saturated colors, he weaves ribbons of form in, under, over, and around one another. These canvases hint at abstract narratives while always retaining their joyful exploration of the painting process.

The almost ritualistic patternings of Jeanne Heifetz’s drawings are hypnotic. They seem to meander across the page, yet there is always an underlying logic to the journey of her lines. Using a visual ordering system based on the branching of natural structures, her work investigates the organic growth of form and the movement of marks on paper.

Eva Kwong’s miraculous sculptures exist somewhere between the natural and fabricated worlds. Drawing upon her interest in the spiritual and visual interconnectedness of the universe, she creates beautiful objects that manage to make reference to many different realities simultaneously. Her animated sculptures delight the eye while defying categorization.

The sculptures of Greely Myatt build upon the notion of “transformation.” His impeccably crafted found and fabricated mixed-media sculptures are funny and provocative, playing with artistic and social conventions in an amusing and elegant manner. Myatt references everything from rural southern culture to contemporary art, creating both installation and intimate scale works that welcome the viewer in, with a wink and a nod.

And Brian Sargent’s deep dive photographic investigations into light and the landscape capture an eerie mood. The sky seems on the verge of dusk, the light fading… or is it about to dawn? They are full of mystery and quietude. The occasional flash of a silhouetted figure, a ghost or a vision? The choice is yours.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern