Eileen Tabios

I Forgot the Song Inside the Stone

I forgot how much I treasured your nightingale blood, infinite ink for composing my our songs.

I forgot I love you, nightingale. Every millimeter of you!

I forgot a red-breasted bluebird cawing from my mirror.

I forgot a bird cawed as my mirror spat bloodied feathers.

I forgot I thought it was a story and the story was mine. I forgot the story was about the bird who cracked a stone, then swallowed its sharp splinters.

I forgot Juana taught me, there is no madness—there is only a woman feral in love. Hear me sing to you the A.
The E. The
I. The

The U. The
You. The

I forgot Juana the Mad.

I forgot to live like Lorca and Loca: “at evening’s / end, I wanted / to be my / voice. A / nightingale.”

I forgot I once wielded a nightstick—an obscenely fat baton from the French who observed then tediously observed once more, Seeing is suffering.

Ole! Verdad! I forgot the true flamenco can shatter stone. That one only needs to strengthen shoe tips with six extra nails for drumming into a floor imagined as the naked chests of drunk soldiers looking up one’s skirts.

I forgot I composed this song that would turn you into ice, so you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore.

I forgot I learned to stamp my heels to sound a machine gun blast. I forgot I didn’t need a man to bring me fire so I can forge a song.

I forgot the Singer learned fires are hot from being burned.

I forgot the Singer learned knives are sharp from being cut.

I forgot how, when they heard the male Singer, they heard his cante come from him like a rusty nail pulled from an old board. La voz afilla—sandpaper voice. Good Gitano voice. Muy rajo, very rough.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard the stars, then the wolves, fall into bleak silence.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard a shivering woman in ripped clothes as soldiers did what they did to her and her still virgin daughters and sons.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard a man jailed for stealing a bunch of grapes, then the ugly grunts of his starving children.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard the whips over his ancestors as they were cast out of India.

I forgot one does not need to age into frailty to be a sugar sculpture in a garden ever threatened by storms.

I forgot how a nightingale blossomed to song before we lost desire for mercy. I forgot how a nightingale blossomed to song after we ceased relying on prayer. I forgot how I didn’t need nightingales to sing for me.

I forgot how I cannot forget Lorca wanting to greet each morning as purely “A Heart.”

I forgot blood is flamenco is blood is … and one knock suffices for announcing the palo.

I forgot ocean mirrors nothing but ocean.


I forgot I once danced—en compas!—into a story I thought belonged to me. I became a character in it, giving its narrative all the years demanded from my life. But the story began long before I entered it. I forgot I was only dancing flamenco.

I forgot how a stairway muffled but still sang our song.

I forgot constellations don’t sing when they want to emphasize your joy.

I forgot it was impossible to avoid the rain of black crows plummeting from the bullets of hidden hunters with soft hands.

I forgot that, once, I was woken by a whisper to see a red chair tipped on its side upon a white shag carpet—when they finally found you, it was the heart of winter and the only witnesses were stripped trees bent by old winds, their muteness ancient and forever.

I forgot I refused to smash a bagpipe. I anticipated and was afraid of the image of a discarded lung atop the asphalt of your aborted road.

I forgot the mental is a muscle.

I forgot how stars became asterisks to matters best left in the dark. I forgot the tirelessness of shame.

I forgot the wave—how its singularity is easily fractured by sunlight’s blades.

I forgot a reflection can manifest loneliness or holiness but never both at the same time.

I forgot the artist commissioned with the order, “Don’t make it abstract.” I forgot the artist’s iron soldiers erupting amidst Midwestern wheat.

I forgot the chill of kissing the wrong man. O lifetime of pearls!

I forgot the outcome of “Matte vs. Glass.”

I forgot a body drowning in light as a hand wrote. I forgot eyes leaking flames.

I forgot the ziggurat tattooed on an inner thigh, an area where inscription must have surfaced with anguish, then desperation, then a hymn long-forgotten as I’d forgotten how to attend anyone’s church.

I forgot how the sun’s stare becomes tolerable through the cotton eyelets of another generation’s apron.

I forgot a long-haired woman exists, but outside the frame as has been reality for centuries.

I forgot flying fish are always wide-eyed always breathless always look unbelieving.

I forgot a mirrored face only partially owns its reflection.

I forgot the absence of green as my bandaged wing swung to break stalactites. I forgot that after ice falls, they merely lie on ground, evaporating.

I forgot we agreed to toss away the blindfold so that our ears can become more than holes for burning stones tossed our way by a cruel race.

Or stones tossed our way by a venal dictatorship.

Or stones tossed our way by an incompetent health care system.

Or stones tossed our way by a passive bureaucrat wielding power over the education of the child we will never have.

Or stones tossed our way by that obscene combination of trust fund baby and hedge fund billionaire.

Or stones tossed our way by the demands of poverty: how poverty paradoxically narrows the impoverished focus into the small, then petty, then brutish.

I forgot paint can transform canvas to skin. I forgot when the paint can is empty, only then will innocence reveal itself.

I forgot sunsets call for wine.

I forgot the moving prop of clouds can fail to soften the edges of dark architecture.

I forgot a woman shrouded herself in white linen—a poem invisible but stubbornly transparent until flesh became stone.

I forgot I was left with a stone watching itself like a poem in a forest, covered fretfully by ancient moss, its legacy only a stone toe with its orange paint long faded (though it lingers in someone’s memory).

I forgot we were swollen underground with rain as certain elements erased their absence:

I forgot that thing unidentifiable, though it evoked pink pearls luminescent among a gutted goat’s entrails.

I forgot the maddened sunlight into which hostages emptied long-held fears as they erupted from a robbed bank.

I forgot crackle of light, dream of icicles and the unpredictability of angles cut by any creature chased for its nutritious heart.

I forgot how effectively pain obviates abstractions.

I forgot a roof tile flew and slate sliced my cheek. Blood on fingers after brushing against cheek’s glimmer of bone.

I forgot that when a stone hand cracks, its pieces will not be caught.

I forgot that stone was the compromise defining the absence of void.

I forgot the interior, from the beginning, was stone.

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 40 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her most recent are The Connoisseur of Alleys (Marsh Hawk Press, 2016) and Invent(St)ory: Selected Catalog Poems and New 1996-1915 (Dos Madres Press, 2015). With poems translated into eight languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized ten anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays in addition to serving as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. More information is available at eileenrtabios.com

Editors’ Notes (Posit 9)


Welcome to Posit 9!

We love this first issue of 2016, which makes us think, in a number of different ways, about the expansive potential of artistic innovation. First, there is the incorporation and re-appropriation managed by the procedural poetry of Carlo Matos and Travis Macdonald, offering glimpses of the erased and remixed words of writers like Simone Muench, Mark Lamoureux, and Paul Killibrew. In addition, there is the implicit dialogue between new and previous work by returning contributors — in this issue: Darren C. Demaree, Howie Good, and Travis Macdonald. All of which reminds us of the extent to which art is, by definition, about incorporation and re-imagination, whether it is Anis Shivani’s Great Wall, Howie Good’s tornado, Robert McBrearty life story, Eileen Tabios’s litany of wonders and horrors, or the alchemical transformation of source material aced by every artist (visual as well as literary) featured in this exciting issue. So, it is with great pleasure that we invite you to peruse:

Darren C. Demaree’s spare, suggestive, “quiet, lowered /. . . roaring/ . . .& ecstatic” probings of identity, intimacy, and the quest for grace;

Samantha Duncan’s smart, tightly-wound, vivid constructions tracking a paradoxical “graduation from the gradient” via “veins that listen” to her extremely telling “curl/ of words;”

Raymond Farr’s wistful prosody, revealing “the sublime the ironic like a 5 o’clock shadow” where “love is a man ruled by the sun & not the itch in his bones” and “even this sad yellow paint has seven shades of itself;”

Howie Good’s somber prose poems populated by “a new god seated on a throne of razor wire,” “gray gulls, their shrieks like symptoms of dementia,” and “words, some bandaged, others still bleeding” mercifully leavened by irony, imagination, and even love;

Maja Lukic’s quietly intense evocations of cityscapes furnished with “gutted wind” and a sky which “promises to rain / money bags and emoji,” or offers snow like “cracked glitter, paw imprints in new dustings, / effigies of our old breath, frozen in the air;”

Travis Macdonald’s compelling remixes of poems by Killibrew and Lamoureux, demonstrating “how all true/going is taking” and raising intriguing questions about the relationship between vocabulary and voice;

Carlo Matos’ haunting erasures of Simone Muench’s Wolf Centos (themselves reconfigurations of other poetic texts), troubling our assumptions about center vs periphery, absence vs presence, and the loud voice of the unsaid, “when tenderness/nestles down/with her she-mask” — “sans teeth, sans/you;”

Robert Garner McBrearty’s impossibly compressed microfiction, in which the task of writing his companion’s life story deteriorates to stunning effect;

Cindy Savett’s intriguing invitation to follow her on “a trip where the babies lie flat/ tracing resistance with their fingertips” leading us careening “down the middle in an instant of delight,” only to stand speechless wondering “how do I sing of white lilacs and pine?”

Anis Shivani’s virtuosic bricolage of allusive musicality and aphoristic insights nailing “art, the fleabite to time,” transforming “partial manuscripts signed/ by the angels of detritus” into “experimental gardens . . . [imbued with] the nuance of musicality;”

Eileen R. Tabios’ masterful litany of all that could never again be forgotten, once she “composed this song that would turn you into ice, so that you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore;”

and Leah Umansky’s inspired revelations of the “satisfaction in seeing the day as something clear for landing or for sending off” where “once, there was the falling of night and I was alone with its steepness, and . . . felt I was a pooling of light; a door-sliver and golden beam.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


And welcome to the visual art of Posit 9!

Keren Kroul’s complex and beautiful paintings evoke maps of imaginary countries or the pathways of the brain. The individual sections stand strongly on their own, but conjoined in the large grids presented here, they make a statement that is simultaneously bold and intimate. The sum is as beautiful as the parts.

The mixed media sculptures of Sydney Ewerth turn our expectations about space and materials topsy-turvy. Her play with the object and its painted shadows confounds our expectations even while her materials and colors delight the eye. Her aesthetic is clear and the work masterful.

Don Porcaro choreographs an elegant dance between the two- and three-dimensional pieces presented here. It is evident how his work in one medium reverberates into another. His colorful and almost playful forms belie the serious artistic concerns that underlie this evocative body of work.

The lyrical paintings of Sarah Slavick are reminiscent of the movement of water, wind and sand. The rhythm and dynamism of her patterns are mesmerizing, with light and color moving through and around them, underscoring their complexity.

Mariah Karson presents a fascinating vision of landscape, whether it be the interior landscapes of abandoned school buildings or the poetics of isolated buildings in desolate settings. The solitude in her photographs is profound, and perhaps a little lonely. However, she frames this vision with a clarity that is elegant and precise.

Melissa Stern