Lewis Warsh

Second Chance

Let me offer you a plate
of bowtie cookies but be careful
not to drop any crumbs on the
rug for fear the mice might
come out at night when we’re

Eat slowly and sit up straight
this time tomorrow we’ll meet
again, like strangers in street
clothes, at the restaurant on
the corner

Do you want some more salsa
with your chips one might
say as a way of breaking the ice
after so many years of fighting our
way out of a paper bag

And it’s only in the here and
now that we can make up
for lost time while the meter
is running and everything
is on hold

Just so we can sit across a table
and peel a grape and stare into
the space between each other’s
eyes and write the definitive version
of what never happened
and never will

Drop a tincture of snake oil on
the scar tissue and pay off
your debts two at a time
while all the buildings where we spent
the night crumble into dust

And old friends greet us with
a standing ovation as I eat
the cherry at the bottom of the glass
in one bite and ask the waitress
with green eye shadow for a dry martini
straight up

On Johnson Road

I took a walk down Johnson
Hill Road to see the beaver
build her dam. But she wasn’t
there, only a few ripples
on the surface of the pond.
A few flies alighted on my shoulder,
and in my hair. Then I sat
out for awhile and read a book
about Jean Paul Sartre and
Simone de Beauvoir. I haven’t
come to the good part yet,
sex in the grass. Then a few
raindrops fell on my head.
There’s the path into the woods
behind the house, lost in shadow.
That’s where I’m going, just give
me time. It seems to get late
early, or earlier, each day, which
isn’t exactly news to anyone,
but something to say, as each
hour a little more light vanishes
from the sky and the barred owl
sounds its cry from the uppermost
branch, and the leaves begin to
sway, and turn color, over night.
Soon it will be autumn and all
the fall colors and a few deer will
dare to walk across the road without
fear of hunters or people in fast
cars. Soon the seasons will change;
the grass turn brown, the leaves
purple, like old wine, and the prosecutor
will present inadmissible evidence
to the jury of one’s peers, whoever
they might be, old, young, blind,
aging, embittered, dissolute,
and dumb.

Night Sky

Night-life in the country,
beyond the sighting
of a raccoon,

and the headlights
of a pick-up returning from the

night-life in the treetops. The
3-legged dog next door
doesn’t bite. Do I hold

on for a moment or do
I slip over the edge?

Night-time in the
parking lot outside
Arizona Pizza, the Metro

North train
arrives in Wassaic, I get
off at the last stop.

Tuesday matinees
at the Triplex. The forklift
operator’s wife at the end
of the bar.

Night-life in the Bronx.
A dead carnation
in your lapel.

My mother knots my tie
before I walk out the door.

Night-life on the Pacific
Rim. I wear a bullet-proof vest
in Coconut Grove.

Night-life anywhere filled
with stars in the night sky.

Night-life in the baggage
claim area with no where
to go.

Lewis Warsh’s most recent books are Piece of Cake (written in collaboration with Bernadette Mayer, Station Hill, 2020), A Free Man (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), Out of the Question: Selected Poems 1963-2003 (Station Hill, 2017), Alien Abduction (Ugly Duckling, 2015), and A Place in the Sun (Spuyten Duyvil, 2010). He is editor and publisher of United Artists Books and founding director of the MFA program at Long Island University (Brooklyn).

Lewis Warsh


The man downstairs warns us about the bedbugs
     in his apartment & the next day I have big bumps
     on my arms

There are bugs in the soup among other places

It’s no coincidence that Gregor Samsa turned into a bug

Joy and sadness are like sweet & bitter food

The places you visited don’t exist when you’re not there

The world is a forest filled with wild beasts & poisonous insects

The anesthesia is just wearing off & a nurse is sitting at my

Maybe when I’m old & blind you can read to me before
      I fall asleep

You were sleeping here a moment ago & now you’re gone

This is what used to be known as the meatpacking district

It’s not a problem (for me) if you want to burn everything you’ve

I put some cortisone on my bites to relieve the itching

The hair stylist on the ground floor claims that the birds
      on the windowsill attract rats

I had the sense that someone was following me
      so I turned the corner

There’s a theory that only the beginning & the end
      are important

I skipped a few pages to find out what happens at the end

You may read a short summary of the book before you begin

I tried to throw the ball through the hoop, but it went astray

“The self-acknowledged suffering of the disintoxicated
      is the subject of this book”

Every word is a verb: to do, to be, to seem

The words are in italics because I’m saying them

My so-called doppelganger is not my friend

It’s a long way down from the roof to the street

Waiting on line at the bank we are simply nobodies

I run out into the snow / but there’s nowhere to go

My head is no longer part of my body

When I first started wearing glasses, people called me “Owl”

When I walked down the street people shouted “Hoot! Hoot!”

One word from you & my thoughts begin spiraling

It’s hard to know what to do next until you’re doing it

My private parts are glowing in the dark

There was a buzz in the audience at the sound of her name,
      but after her performance people looked downcast & filled
      with despair, as if the propensity to feel anything
      had vanished forever in her presence

It feels like there’s a nail sticking into the bottom of my foot

Darkness commensurate with discomfort–this style of writing

Self-discipline is necessary if you want to forget something

There’s a struggle, never ending, between clinging to something
      & letting go

A stream of water flowed out of my head

You can walk down Gun Hill Road in the Bronx & be anywhere

You can stand at the intersection of Gun Hill Road & Eastchester
      Road & remember the past

I can see the light of a taxi in the distance, coming through
      the snow to take me home

You can walk down Lydig Avenue in the Bronx & remember
      your childhood

I cursed at the doctor who wanted to give me a shot

In those days, when you were sick, the doctors visited you
      in your apartment

There’s the intersection where I waited for a bus — it’s after midnight

Once I took speech lessons to correct my lisp

It’s time to leave the party but I can’t find my coat

I omitted the sentence you asked me to erase without fear of rain

Long shot of an empty downtown street — coffin-like, unreadable

“We’re walking on sunshine — ooh, ooh”

Side effects might include drowsiness or diarrhea

It’s important to clean the sink before going to sleep

Sometimes the bugs come out when you’re sleeping

The sky is overwhelming but so is the vastness of the sea

We buy a magnifying glass so we can identify the bodies
      of the dead bugs

The dead bugs leave a trail of blood along the sheets

It’s hard to touch someone who isn’t here

The dermatologist touches the welts on my skin

The ferry is late & we won’t be home

Lewis Warsh’s most recent books are One Foot Out the Door: Collected Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), A Place in the Sun (Spuyten Duyvil, 2010) and Inseparable: Poems 1995-2005 (Granary, 2008). He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Long Island University (Brooklyn). He is editor and publisher of United Artists Books. A new book of poems, Alien Abduction, is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse.


Editors’ Notes (Posit 4)


Welcome to Posit 4!

We are delighted to bring you the poetry in this new issue, which assembles a range of poetic approaches to the deployment of razor-sharp vision reflecting our selves and our world(s) with unnerving power and ineffable magic. As always, the work in this issue comes from poets at all stages of their careers and a variety of aesthetic and geographical milieus. We hope you enjoy:

Kristin Abraham’s elliptical yet potent lyric investigations into the violently carved ‘wife-shaped face’ of American femininity as well as the asymmetrical “hog-thick tension” and “derivative violence” of our diode-logical relationships;

Simeon Berry’s wryly wrought encounters of Nix, a “biped without a face,” with the “negative/cathedral[s]” of our final inevitable “unreal estate,” nimbly transmogrifying sound puns to meaning puns with wit and grace;

Dana Curtis’s hallucinogenic psycho-documentaries with their “known lights . . . spiraling out . . . into [a] fog shrouded museum;”

Raymond Farr’s wonderfully threatening contemporary mythology, replete with Delphic Oracle;

Derek Graf’s ‘forest’ of prose blocs in which the silent and the voiced intertwine to re-imagine tropes as rich and strange as “the cold equations of hills and the cloven vandal of the moon;”

Carolyn Guinzio’s unsettling gaze reflecting our world in the hypnotic spin of a snake’s eye and complicating meaning via a counterpoint of interwoven narratives emitting implications of incantatory resonance;

Tim Kahl’s blunt and surprising vision, inviting us in from the numb comfort of our societal “avoid room” and guiding us “into position to receive the new settings from the old intelligence;”

Drew Kalbach’s “polycarbonate enhanced/enriched plastic” urban techno narratives, gleaming like “pure chemical reactions where no chemicals are found and nobody takes a picture to prove it;”

Jared Schickling’s mad constructions, “an epicurean trip thru quantum entanglement” conjuring up verbal parallels to the work of Jackson Pollock;

Marius Surleac’s collisions of punk rock with bucolic pastoralism, making us “lose our minds smoking pot made of sharp corn blades;”

Lewis Warsh’s deceptively relaxed and conversational lines snaking from the daily to the universal, the evident to the profound, with lingering resonance and masterful grace;

and Karen Zhou’s deft and haunting constructions, weaving us into her magical world of “nebular wild white,” “tattooed tulips” and “the impossibility of brûléed snow.”

As ever, thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


And welcome to the visual art in Posit 4!

ShinYeon Moon’s work explores the masks that people wear and the people beneath those masks — who we appear to be, and who we fear we are. Deeply psychological, Moon draws the inspiration for these haunting works from poetry, mythology, and her own life.

Gina Pearlin’s paintings are like bits of half-remembered dreams of a bygone era in an unnamed country. Despite their dreamlike quality, there’s a solidity about these pieces that plants them firmly in time and space. At once surreal and concrete, her vision reveals a world that is grim yet strangely beautiful, asking questions only the viewer can answer.

James Rauchman’s paintings draw us into a world of organic shape and form. Densely packed, the canvases often seem poised to burst open. They pulse with a life of their own, like biological specimens under a magnifying glass. At the same time, Rauchman is addressing formal ideas of figure and ground. The paintings dance back and forth between foreground and background, creating a lyrical tension which addresses central questions in contemporary painting.

With a wry sense of humor, Kevin Snipe’s work documents urban life and relationships between men and women. He uses the physicality of ceramics to work around, in, under, and through the visual narratives. These sculptures operate on both two and three dimensions, the visual narrative of the drawings reinforced by the sculpted forms. Snippets of dialogue float through these pieces, like conversations overheard on a subway.

And Laura Sharp Wilson’s work assembles forms that hark from many realms: under the sea, under a microscope, and in the sky. They appear as both decorative and highly structured scientific portraits of an alternative universe. Using vivid and beautiful color palettes combined with precise drawing, these paintings suggest multiple possibilities stemming from the natural and scientific worlds.


Melissa Stern