Matthew Cooperman

Gaseous Ode

Poetry readings are pretty cool
but the format’s all wrong, unquestioned, say
you are a performer, you must use your time
wisely, verve & salt, we are not clowns, this
is a pageant of dignity, true confessions,
we are all clowns quite recent in human history,
some notion, perhaps, wrought from the academy
that all representational poets should stay home and write
how a blue jay could possibly land on a porch
each day anew, a new metaphor tattooed on its flank
caw caw, not everyone, I mean, is breathing deeply
as Ethel Merman, the awkward fumbling human
figure and voice, it’s a good messenger, senses
merge in the strange O chasm of the throat, a voice
in which I write this at my grandfather’s house
in green Vermont, a lake, first frost, the enemy wheezing
a kind of perfunctoriness, shortness of breath, and thank
goodness I am ranting now, for it’s the clichés that kill
the dream, the bird, the blue brain, or I will read two
or three more and then I’ll end, I had a boyfriend who
used to read newspapers at readings, very newsy,
facts going down like a red fire truck answering a flood
but no thrall, no inhale admission—I am sad in the
abstract and angry in the real, reading this thread
alone, was his name Kenny Goldsmith?
I too dislike it and it’s not difficult reading to the
emotionally impaired, another literary tote bag gleaned
from the Loom of Poetry, we don’t have to balkanize
or swoon for abstraction, naming the font’s frosty
glow in white space breaks your heart, so lonely
to publish any screed, you mentioned Rilke earlier,
your comments make me laugh, and laughing’s
good in the rarified comedic register of performance,
I’m in one now—Das Poetry! Das Poetry!—its unfurling
white flag of the person, let’s call her Vanessa, can we
get the real person from the literal breath, who needs a
secret sharer, there’s an O really home when the conversation lifts, for a face
I ask Emily Dickinson, but sometimes my ass
is a hat, she didn’t even read in public but she sang, a breathing’s
brood of bird work, I’m all alone at the winter podium,
my voice fails me again and again—respiration—
it’s everyone’s problem

Mother Ode

A, and, heir, address, what isn’t one of your subjects

You, who have given me

subjects, writing sunlight, just now

through the cracked window, falling prismatically
on the recognized days of my arms—they are

your arms in the warm morning air—the intuited body of creases
a riverine channel caught
in the corner of your eyes

and the real sedge-pocketed wetlands, grassy hills, fertile
down low a stand
of egrets—alone but together—scattered
over the marsh

All this, an image, the pictures we have
made together, walking the spongy ground, and You too

just now imagining your Mother, first flash or glimmer
of face
or breast, emanation of safety,
home, smell

from the actual marsh. It is Bair Island in my world
a home, or the estuarial Pescadero
where I place it, an Actual, how you have saved
this real thing, dear Mother, made a difference


What is it to make same and make different?

What is it to make a difference?

What Progress from a thug’s life, or a TV addled life?
I watch 60 Minutes and hear Morley Safer down the hall…
It is vaguely the 70s in what I am saying

This too is one of your subjects

Free Speech, Literacy, quilting, Mothers Against War,
happenings, marches, chants and hugs,
I am in a gym, somewhere in Oakland,
we are there to protest Vietnam,
we are painting placards, reds
and greens, the
foggy undertones outside and in a
scratchy wool—

a sweater you have made me


The earth is hot tonight with all of its angers, the human need
a small part of destruction, an enduring sign
for the sentence of odes, devotions
that kill, come out of the mouth

And it’s cool, cold, freezing again in a foreign car or a small house
on a large lake—Tahoe, George, Geneva, winter, a Suisse affect
of people we knew then
who I dream about now,
one of your subjects



What does the poem do as an effrontery to hydrogen?

What much, mulch, burn / not burn down the house or marsh?

What will the burn down be in the loss of Mother?

A human sign is a mother sign, attachment, ductile love,
a human need as apostrophe, breathing
itself, to be recognized, a Subject


These aggregates grow at the bottom of the ocean

I say this because I went sailing with my mother

She of the sea, in a driving reach, firm hand on the tiller
coming about, or with a cup of wine, wine inked
by moonlight, the quality of objects birthed on water

We are birthed by care or carelessness, circumstance
and Money, but always Mothers

where the mouth is, where the care is, the breast
cupping it back, even to a thug’s life

Water breaks: everyone starts out innocent
and with a Mother

A person first unrecognized pinkish need

an elbow’s covert, a little too much
oxygen, foliates of time and space
tentacled to Mother, this this this is my Ode

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An immense loneliness clinging to my shirt, the Futurity

of your Absence, stitchery in its indigo

a continental drift, race and trade and labor, the endless
stream of mothers, largess of what’s given
and received, never never never enough


Sidereal—I hear the word and you are standing

in a grove of redwoods, ours, our memory

with stars and potting trowels, alkaline rot of the darkening
backyard, Deneb, Altair, and you come forward

toggling your blue eye with seeing night,
the perennials, one
of your subjects


So the image suffices, briefly, that You are a conjured planting

an Earth somewhere, a Good Mother, something living
that will outlive the dead, a photo passed
in sunlight that addresses me personally
in the turning world

Air, address, say it will suffice, I am dangling, a prism

alive in the Mother Ode

Laughing Man

When I woke this morning I was a laughing man. Not someone
waking up from a dream of laughing, or the watching of a man
laughing suddenly awake, but a real laughing man. I will try

to explain it was rich with others, others laughing,
but they have run away in my dream. The dream itself
was sudden and tan–there was a gathering, a party of people

at ends, “fuck you, I love you!” and “one more verse!,” and I will
never see you again. This was a threshold and O, just so interesting.
There were places to go, lives, people paying, gasoline, college, beer.

But there was a visitor and he had come to the room of my dream
and brought his girl, who could be his wife, maybe his daughter and she
was tall, a strawberry blond, with deep laughter lines as if she

had been with him laughing for a very long time. “The visitor speaks
whenever he arrives,” he cautioned the room, the world, our eyes,
to brush the dust slowly from the chair, the red chair she was to sit on—

“don’t sift dust into her eyes, her eyes, fair and blue are very sensitive.”
He was not laughing, he had seen a cloud darken, what to darken
one’s sight, to lose sight of why blindness or fate or a poem arrives—

and a sudden man in denim who could not explain why anything laughs.
What a dream! A long winter rushes up to pause the explanation,
the explanation which is not what we wish for. Whose dream?

Sunlight dreaming, and so someone asked how to write a poem
with everything in it—”a beautiful abundance?,” she asked, and he
and the woman, and another man suddenly “Yes’d!” in triple unison,

—and they ran away into the woods like a pedaling sunshine
into green, light spread around, comical, denim, a kind of haiku
with six legs that appeared to love life very well. Anything

can happen in a dream, a beautiful abundance, or a laughing man
leaving a party, and into the woods, where there is more laughter
than darkness, and people will follow.

Years pass in the dream. I waited for years to say “you have
answered all of my questions which were not known as questions”
for there they go running away into the summer woods.

I will get up from this table and follow the sunshine
and denim of a tribe of people living variously outside.
I will make a pact with the present to not use the future

as a problem about missing the sun. And I will leave,
I have left an old and grading life, and it’s a sunshine to be out
in the world of laughter when there is so much pain.

Fair dreamer, there is no generation that knows and does
not know. There is no conveyor belt to happiness and sleep
though we would dream deeply to get there.

We go on and on in our lives not remembering the laughter
of children. Not the idea but our own bright guttural laugh
missing for centuries. From us and to us—

my daughter rises every morning like the visitor from a dream
but she is real. She knows where to go for the sunshine
of this blue planet, and the games that will make her laugh. I

am running after her broken free

Matthew Cooperman is the author of, most recently, NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified), w/Aby Kaupang, (Futurepoem, 2018), as well as Spool, winner of the New Measure Prize (Free Verse Editions, 2016), Disorder 299.00, w/Aby Kaupang, (Essay Press 2016), the text + image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World, w/Marius Lehene (Jaded Ibis, 2013), Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011) and other books. A Poetry Editor for Colorado Review, and Professor at Colorado State University, he lives in Fort Collins with his wife, the poet Aby Kaupang, and their two children.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 19)


Welcome to Posit 19!  If literature is a movable feast, then the prose and poetry in this issue is especially rich: rich in imagination, rich in resonance, and rich in story.

Given that, as Buzz Spector points out, “in modern America / we need a new understanding of myth” (In Modern America), we’ve brought together a variety of tales whose brevity belies the depth of their emotional register, as does the thin and potent line on which they tread — or rather, dance: between universal and specific, archetype and individual. We’re thinking not only of the powerful prose of Jefferson Navicky, Marvin Shackelford, Stephen Nelson, and Daniel Uncapher, but also (since, as Matthew Cooperman reminds us in Gaseous Ode, “we don’t have to balkanize”) the lineated verses of Elizabeth Robinson’s After the Flood, Adam Day’s ‘neighbor’ poems, David Rock’s ‘homunculus’ poems, and Tongo Eisen-Martin’s unvarnished yet rousing evocations of our shamefully culpable polis.

And stretching that thin line even further to challenge the notion of authorship itself, we include a remarkable sampling of Laurie Kolp’s centos, and Buzz Spector’s collage poems.

Here’s what you will find in this delicious issue:

In Matthew Cooperman’s diverse trio of new poems, “[p]oetry readings are pretty cool but the format’s all wrong,” although “the awkward fumbling human figure and voice . . .[is] a good messenger” due, perhaps, to the way “senses / merge in the strange O chasm of the throat.” With unpretentious erudition, sonorous fluency, and a relaxed mastery of the line, he contemplates the Mother, the “Futurity of [her] Absence, stitchery in its indigo” and asks “What is it to make same and different? / What is it to make a difference?” when “[t]he earth is hot tonight with all of its angers.” Perhaps it is to “write a poem / with everything in it — ‘a beautiful abundance’” like we find in these rich new works.

With irresistible grace and unflinching directness, Adam Day’s terse, tightly-packed verses probe the resonant physicality of nameless but entirely specific, deeply recognizable ‘neighbors.’ These poems are populated with Everywomen and men who, like our ‘real’ neighbors, “believe most fantastic statements; nothing / to do with truth but opinions // which change” in this “[w]orld bent // on splitting itself” in a time — this time — when “[h]istory / [is] deformed by facts no longer.”

Turning his powerful attention to the forgotten and the ignored in plain sight, Tongo Eisen-Martin embraces his “new existence as living graffiti” to expose how “[t]he ruling class floats baskets of swathed neighborhoods off to be adopted” according to the “terrible rituals they have around the corner. . . let[ting] their elders beg for public mercy …beg for settler polity.” In a history covered up and buried by religion, “heaven sure is secretive” despite “[t]he staircase under this slavery / And one hundred slaves.” On these streets, in this country, Eisen-Martin deeply listens, making it impossible not to hear: “please give me / spare change and your word that I won’t be missing in a year,” since, “as is the custom, two humans make a humanity.”

In these haunting poems, Jessica Goodfellow sends us postcards from insomnia and relates grief to the “paradox of Gabriel’s Horn” which “can be explained by the method of infinitesimals, by partitions so small you can never see them.” Postcards evokes the punishing wakefulness of “all night turning sinistral shells over and over in your hand. At daybreak, lobbing them back into the sea,” at times when “[t]he night sky might think of stars as scars — pinpoints where memory burns and burns” — not unlike the revived bereavement that strikes when we reconsider what we thought we knew, “stupidly forgetting” what the reader of these poems cannot, that “depthless means both shallow and unfathomably deep.”

Built entirely from the phrasings of other poets, Laurie Kolp’s centos display remarkable conceptual unity as well as seamless musicality. These poems combine lines by poets such as Neruda, Frost, Bukowski, Smith, and Voung to trace the arcs of their internal arguments with a grace which not only gives the lie to the dread anxiety of influence, but poses a fundamental challenge to our concept of the meaning — and the significance — of originality. In so doing, they broaden our idea of what constitutes poetic ‘material,’ and demonstrate the transformative impact of context.

In Matthew Kosinski’s hands, the poetic phrase beguiles and challenges in equal measure, daring us to keep up with the honed force of its clarity and paradox. Like the “savior music” they describe, these verses “accomplish transfiguration” by ranging “from a shiver to a howl” in the face of which, happily, “conventional wisdom balks.”

Jefferson Navicky’s bracingly original yet understated tales flicker between the surreal and the recognizable. The Butler’s Life depicts an unexpected and yet recognizable servitude, considering how much we will sacrifice to avoid abandoning another post. And the dark fairy tale, Moon Park, contemplates what we will do to “smell all the smells under the smells,” and “hear what’s really there.”

Stephen Nelson’s The Woods Are Mine tweaks such tropes of the 19th century novel as the train, the woods, the castle, the Duke, the convent, and the intimate narration by a mysterious stranger who “wanted people in passing trains to see [him] covered in leaves” because he “thought that might be of interest.” In Nelson’s hands, these familiar elements are subtly and intriguingly skewed, inhabiting a dream-like world in which “[t]he clouds were entertaining divas” and “[t]he leaves were sad songs the man hummed along to;” an interior world, perhaps, in which “nothing can ever be proven” and “[t]here is no political answer for loneliness.”

In After the Flood, Elizabeth Robinson ponders the uneasy state of our relationship to nature and each other. “What is your stake in this?” the narrator is asked, while volunteering at a homeless shelter. Although she offers food to a man “whose presence is fundamentally unhoused” he ends up disappearing. It occurs to her “that all attention is a form of loss because it cannot create perfect reciprocity with its focus.” Nonetheless, despite the fact that “[t]he world, we may agree, is ending badly,” “there are ameliorating coincidences. There are pleasures.” Perhaps the poet’s stake, and our own, is that “[d]espair may always be true, with its glare,” but “beside or aside it, rapture has its own kind of patience, groping in the dark.”

David Rock’s meditations on human agency borrow Descartes’ notion of the ‘homunculus’ to juxtapose and collapse the trappings of ordinary contemporary life with that of a Tibetan Monk, Odysseus, the victims of the Siege of Leningrad, and Moses, demonstrating that “[a]ll situations are life-and-death situations” in a reality, like ours, in which “the world could always end / but hasn’t” and “it would be a shame / to bail on what’s left of a pretty good party.”

Marvin Shackelford returns to Posit with two more exceptional stories, proffering their characteristically unsentimental but deeply compassionate insight into the messy interior of the human predicament. With masterful, economical, and often lyrical prose, these stories suggest what it is to “take to the world and empty your soul into it,” trying your best to get “’[f]ar as forever until now gets you.”

Even while they fashion new wholes from the found language, colors, and textures which Buzz Spector dismantles and reassembles, his collages underscore the pervasive quality of disconnection permeating literary culture “in modern America” — especially “the dangerous effects of living a lie.” What emerges from these recombined and fractionated book blurbs floating on colored paper fields are meta-texts built from meta-texts. The results not only expose but repurpose the misleading grandiosity of blurbs as a cultural convention — even, and perhaps especially, in the face of their raison d’être, as inherently secondary to the books they praise. In the process, these collages offer a clear but pixelated view — and hence, critique — of the culture from which they spring: the “hypocrisies, and desires” “that characterize our historical moment.”

And Daniel Uncapher’s Vanishing Point is a hypnotic incantation to an individual psyche (Sam) as well as to the infinite multiplicity of psyches contemplated by reincarnation (Samsara). In this rhythmic, compelling litany of sound and image, the narrator’s identity “remain[s] a mystery” even as we “[come] to terms with far more impenetrable myths.” This piece opens the reader’s mind to no less than “the defining quality of things” inherent in the beautiful truth of “meaning without mark, presence without trace . . . the suprastructure of mappable worlds.”

With our gratitude for your interest and attention,

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 19!

Gabe Brown offers a beautifully designed meditation upon the balance between the natural and man-made worlds. Her thoughtfully constructed paintings consistently evoke a gentle back and forth between naturalistic elements and a synthesized universe. They are suffused with rich and generous color which harmonizes the elements in each painting to imagine the possibility of an artistic universe free of conflict, suffused by beauty and delight.

Riffing on the form of hat known as a ‘fez,’ Camille Eskell works with complex notions of identity, cultural heritage, and religion. Her pieces tell her own family story, tracing their journey through the Middle East and India. At the same time, this work embraces a wider sense of history and storytelling, posing questions applicable to all families with rich and complex histories. Exquisitely crafted from both traditional and non- traditional materials, this body of work is deeply moving, even as it transcends genres.

Though the timeline of the work represented here is wide, this selection demonstrates Melissa Meyer’s longstanding interest in collage, and the consistent way in which she has approached it. The works from the early 70’s reveal deep connections to the pieces from 2018. Rich layers of jewel-tones carry an almost musical beat, and her forms practically dance off the page. They are joyful and vibrant, expressing a deep love of the medium, and of the act of creation.

In his current work, Joakim Ojanen creates a gentle, funny, universe full of humor and emotion. His deceptively childlike figures portray a profoundly human desire to connect with each other, and with and us. They smile at the viewer with a delicate and goofy plea to be liked. Ojanen creates a beguiling mixture of tenderness, humor, innocence, and technical sophistication. Working in clay and simple glazed colors, he captures the small moments in life that often linger in our memories.

Etty Yaniv’s densely layered assemblage and collage works make one keenly aware of the materiality of her practice. Her pieces pop off of the canvas, and then sink back into it. The fluidity with which her rich and wide array of materials are handled —from found objects to paint and paper — creates the impression that her pieces were “born” the way we find them. Although labor- and process-intensive, this work has a deep sense of grace. Each of these pieces carries us through its private narrative, enveloping us in its own story.


Melissa Stern