Maureen Seaton & Denise Duhamel

12 Lines about Gender (Florida-Style)

I looked to the sky, a UFO above me, or was it a gender
rolling over and over in that big sky like a female
orgasm, delirious with flashing lights? Intercoastal intersex
is so lovely with its salt water and its fresh: true Two-Spirit
brackishness. I mistook a manatee for an androgynous
goddess of rising sea and sinking city, gender-fluid
silver ripples along her back. I spied an omega male
kayaking quietly through musky mangroves, all genderqueer
with their gorgeous underwater roots, their agenda agender
and big love (the nursery of the world!). One transgender
spaceship (or was it a cloud?) was tired of cisgender
sand hogs and sea bullies and wrote across the sky: Bye, Gender!

12 Lines about Gender (the Cosmos)

I believe there is no one on the planet luckier than a bi-gender,
who, like a hipster trickster, lives above the fray, unidentifiable
in their lovely/lanky/stunning/staggering way beyond cisgenders
and their scripts. Monday I’m a femme, Tuesday, androgynous
as a moon pouring light in a cosmos that’s so gender-fluid
it holds Castor, Pollux (twin boys) and Venus (so female,
she’s star of both morning and evening, leading the sun, male,
and earthly Gillette to name a razor in her honor). Agender
ex-planet, Pluto, boasts 5 moons of mythical transgendered
radiance. Astronomists spy on Nix, its interstellar intersex
moonstruck self, as they fly by Pluto to confirm its two-spirit
orbit. The Hubble zooms in on each lovely sphere, genderqueer.

A former proud contributor to Posit Journal, Maureen Seaton has authored twenty-one poetry collections, both solo and collaborative — most recently, Sweet World (CavanKerry Press, 2019). Her awards include the Lambda Literary Award, an NEA, and two Pushcarts. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry and many fine literary journals and anthologies. A memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin, 2008, 2018), also garnered a “Lammy.” Seaton is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Miami.

Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry is Scald (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). Blowout (Pittsburgh, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other titles include Ka-Ching! (Pittsburgh, 2009); Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005); Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001); The Star-Spangled Banner (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999); and Kinky (Orhisis, 1997). She is a Distinguished University Professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.

Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton have co-authored four collections of poetry, the most recent of which is CAPRICE (Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New) (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). With David Trinidad, they edited Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry (Soft Skull, 2007).

Editors’ Notes (Posit 23)

 

Hello, and welcome to Issue 23 of Posit!

Like most literature, the work collected here engages the poetic ramifications of relation: of “us” to “them” (Ryan Clark); of the artist to the art form (Ryan Mihaly); of one species to another (Jeffrey Hecker); and of the self to its own becoming (Paula Cisewski). Some approach romantic relation, at its beginning (Fortunato Salazar) and its end (Cassandra Moss, Katherine Fallon). Others focus on the relation of mother and child, at the beginning of that journey (Stephanie Anderson, Gail Di Maggio) and its end (Maureen Owen). And then there’s the relation, via gender, of the self to the self — and to the cosmos itself (Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel).

However, perhaps what unifies this poetry and prose most fundamentally is courage. Although these works emerge from a range of voices representing a breadth of aesthetic visions, all grapple with their demons and dance with their angels whole-heartedly. More than anything else, this writing is all in.

Now more than ever, we hope the integrity and commitment of this writing gives you the encouragement and inspiration we have so gratefully taken from them.

In her poems of Love and Rage and Love, Stephanie Anderson evokes the challenge to identity of new motherhood in all of its specificity as well as universality. These verses “go grasping / with language” even as the narrator’s “plush / body unravels.” Not to be silenced, the poet manages to nonetheless craft these powerful meditations on the challenge of motherhood, especially when piled onto the already full plate of a poet, job-seeking academic, expat, and life partner. The reader is reminded of the courage it takes to grapple not only with Baths and Summer and Irritation and Grief (not to mention with Love and Rage and Love), but with the “fluid facts” and “willful walls” of reality itself, until “what gets // unraveled / isn’t form, / it’s a form / of supplication.”

Paula Cisewscki’s brilliant observations on writing and its intimate life connections are also the confessions of “an inside person who frequents the insides of schools and museums, a little pet-like it now seems to me.” As children do, in the game of “becoming,” the narrator “shifted my bones around, sprouting feathers or hooves, whiskers or tusks.” She asks, “Are there people who don’t need to know how it feels to be every living thing?” Now, in a different becoming, “the loon I could see is gone. No loons and no hoot and no wail and no yodel and no tremolo. They found each other, I’m going to assume the silence means.” Remembering her (and our) own earlier silences, “What’s a term for the perfect thing you should have said to yourself?” But then, “Once I read a fairy story by this young girl who opened with the phrase, Once a pond of time.” Thankfully, “that girl’s perfectly mistaken phrase exists, and so, inside it I am reborn with joy.”

Like swords into ploughshares, Ryan Clark’s unique form of homophonic translation transforms an Arizona anti-immigration bill into a thing of beauty. His lyrical lines are interlineated with their source text to reveal just how they operate to rewrite and rebut the xenophobia and fear such bills codify. As antidotes to “our reality” in which “fear here is / a signature” and “our / view is fences . . . stately terror fences,” Clark’s lines have the grace and fluidity of “a river” in which “we flow where / carried,” like a “word signed as a wand,” “a sun on a / flag a story of living,” or a “note soaring for the need to soar.”

Many of Katherine Fallon’s sensuous and surprising works are love poems with fangs. In a possibly fading relationship, “we’ve still got some light left and a place to go to, go around, to harness. Think fainting goat, unshod.” And in a sinister desire for preservation: “Breastbone most visible, most wanted and so most likely to split open onto white meat, and really, the handsomest of purple hearts. I’d salt it to keep it safe, I would.” Here too, is “Hand on the gear shift, soft-centered truffle, oyster-splayed like a crime scene.” But in a turn from the “crime” we are offered this tender admission: “Always, a woman’s spirited breath the hot air of an oven, yeast risen against me.”

In Jeffrey Hecker’s dark and witty Ark Aft series, animals we may not have registered in the original biblical text speak, post on social media, and generally act in oddly recognizable ways. Retaining the charm and “moral” point of view of fables, these humorous and delightful animals also propound scholarly sentiments: “Boar notices Noah’s wife’s name varies depending on source text” (Boar & Cow), and personal concerns: “Ferret posts I feel everything I ever fancy or require within reach. Ferret’s alcoholism perturbs me, posts Hamster. I clench apexes, zeniths, vertexes, apogees, pinnacles, Ferret reposts” (Ferret & Hamster). And in Tiger & Lion, Tiger asks Lion questions not out of place for our time: “What type fire should we be, if we die wise? What type water should we be if we die dim?”

Gail di Maggio’s poems lead us into the worlds of dream and memory as the forges of identity. These verses paint deft and subtle portraits of a loving, restless mother who is full of life and unfulfilled desire, “begging the wind to to ripple her, / to make her . . . / over.” They are told from the point of view of an attached and dependent “girl-child” who is as inspired (“un-posed, / irresistible”) as she is frightened by her mother’s appetites, even as she must hide her own — notwithstanding the last of the “yellow blossoms like dragon faces . . . / still in [her] mouth.”

Ryan Mihaly uses text + visuals in these inspired three-part inventions based on clarinet fingering charts to enquire into the transcendent element of music “which unlike the saints . . . leaves no relics behind.” In these pieces, Mihaly transcribes the effects of music, its ekphrastic and emotional impacts upon us, like “rain suddenly stopping, daylight looking like someone who has just finished crying, identity torn away, face replaced by the look of revelation.” At the same time, he is mindful of the uses to which music has been put, “world eye closing or opening depending on what flags unfurl at the command to play.” Ultimately, though, and thankfully, “It costs nothing to play. The body is governed in the same way: the veins do not charge the heart for blood.”

The prose of Cassandra Moss combines the dispassionate analysis of scholarship and formal logic with the narrative immediacy of memoir to penetrate the volatile ambiguities of intimate relation. In these poems, as in life, “the weight of expectation swings wildly . . . from total ontological confirmation to complete withdrawal of mutuality.” Reading of the questing aftermath of a divorce, the reader is reminded, with the narrator, “not to think in terms of old and new” — especially when “the conclusions [she] hoped would be ready-made aren’t reachable.”

Maureen Owens’s spare and tender poems visit the universal ordeal of parental aging – of having once been tended, and now tending. As a child dyeing her mother’s hair, she “could see the black strands flow apart and the white of her scalp emerge in tiny winding rivers,” a child experiencing the parent as her entire landscape. The mother in memory who could “go full gallop up the cow pasture til the very end fencing,” is now the particulars of a declining person. In Owens’s characteristic titles, which work in counterpoint with the poems they open: “she could put on her left ear hearing aid / but not     her right       & sometimes / she could not put on her left either.” And in the poem “that same train / ironically / later that same day     robbed / by     different robbers,” “layers of pillows that won’t behave” belie the truth: “some nights we die several times a night.”

V.S. Ramstack’s elliptical and unpredictable images hum with an immediacy as powerful as they are challenging. Like a “silly scissor mouth,” they capture the reader’s attention and pique our interest with an intensity that is as impossible to pin down as a “soft wheel and brunt.” Treating us to one vividly startling image after another, such as the smell of hair on fire, “a death with / honeyed scythe,” these bold and beautiful poems remind us that we all “have a leash to neglect and this may be / the very time to do it.”

Fortunato Salazar, in these deeply perceptive anacreontic(s) scrawled in dior addict fuchsia pink on fair skin in alice, tx, touches on the oppositional juxtapositions of our outer and inner lives. Salazar queries the language and substance of argument: “I debate circumcised guy, he wrings out verse,” but the debate is really internal: “What am I in this proof”? “I’m mute and I barter at the door.” In this internality, “I’m untouchable like a distant diamond sky, I’m not insubordinate in the service of the enemies of bigotry and narrowness.” There’s maybe a good intent when “We restrain ourselves from each encroaching on the other” but “it’s like poison to me not to triumph in debate or even to leave the wrangling incomplete.” Too, the nature of god is queried: what if “God popped into your Master and spun birth certificate and $100 U.S. currency and water?” “God manned a tower for just such flutter.”

And, in a brand-new installment from poetry icons and long-time collaborators Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel, we are proud to feature two of their exuberant and life-affirming 12 Lines about Gender. These joyous romps into the expansive and expanding universe of gender unbound open their inclusive arms to embrace the genderfluidity of clouds, UFOs, manatees (like “androgynous / goddess[es] of rising sea and sinking city”), and mangroves (“their agenda agender”). Also celebrated are the “Two-Spirit / brackishness” of the Everglades; that “agender ex-planet, Pluto” and their genderqueer moons; and of course, the gloriously uncontainable cosmos itself.

Thank you so much for honoring these wonderful writers with your time and attention!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 23!

The insanely intricate and detailed universe depicted by Alexis Duque could only come from his rich and multidimensional imagination. Using both conventional and original tricks of perspective and technical drawing, he creates drawings that pulse with an almost psychedelic energy. His work is tightly organized and precise, but because of its imagistic density sometimes borders on a delicious hysteria. The eye wanders through his drawings searching for a beginning, middle and end. They are always there; the logic that lies beneath these mad worlds is always impeccable.

The birds in Teresa James’s drawn and collaged constructions often sprout winged hands — an apt metaphor for the artist herself, whose work over the years continues to remind us of the power of her hands. Whether working as a master printmaker/collaborator in her print shop in Chicago, or through her poetic and lyrical personal work, James always displays a mastery of her field. The birds in this body of work sing out to us with songs of love and melancholy.

Cheryl Molnar’s work is a virtuosic combination of concept and technique. Her intricately constructed collage pieces on wood are a marvel of paper and paint engineering. Working with both found and fabricated images, Molnar’s work depicts landscapes, both real and imagined. Her locales are vaguely familiar – encouraging us to will them to evoke a memory of “place.” Her work is imbued with an ineffable spirit of nostalgia, all the while delighting the eye with their intricate plays on time and space.

Matthew Schommer’s extraordinary drawings sometimes feel like film stills. They often capture an image in the split second in which they occur. Time stops and the drawn is lit, as if by a flash illuminating a fleeting moment. The skill with which Schommer seizes an image, using only pencil and his keen eye, is remarkable. They are often slightly blurry, as if pulled from memory, or retrieved from an archive of vintage film.

And Viviane Rombaldi Seppey’s work is conceptually complex and fascinating. Her work with vintage and contemporary maps ponders the notions of being lost and finding one’s way through the world. Seppy describes the work as autobiographical insofar as they reflect her own global wanderings — a life spent living in many countries, and the complexities of language and culture that she has experienced. The objects she makes beg to be touched and searched for keys to their meaning. As mysterious as they are immediate, their beauty is made richer by the depth of their layers of meaning.

Enjoy!
Melissa Stern

Maureen Seaton

Tit, with Foreplay

I too would like the leisurely mind of men.
I would hold my mind in my own two hands and pet it.
If I could be anything it would be a composer.
The one who provides the soul.
Not the body, all modulated and linguistic.
Play, they call it. Play.
Or, not the mind of men. The leisurely mind of God.
Which reminds me of the mind of music.
Which reminds me of the mind of sex.
I would write an oratorio.
Me. Your lovely mate with one fickle surviving breast.
I predict a pause in this musical composition, a shift in the direction of time.
All along, I’ve meant to hold music in my hand and give it to you.

The Integrity of Matter

There’s blood on the page before this one. See?
The dark kicks up. Air torques. Rain tasers the skin.

What did Ginsberg say? That he wrote poems to tell
his version of things in a world that only tells versions

of power? How many days do we have, after all.
A tornado touches down in the next town north.

My heart iambs to some ancient classic—maybe Jackson
Browne, maybe Stylistics. I totter at the St. Vrain Creek

where it bursts from the Rockies. Cottonwoods catch me.
When the child who lives in this house is away his toys

grieve. Thomas the Train is speechless and the mottled
ball sits still. I forget the name of the film where a woman

walks into walls in hopes of entering the womb of an atom.
The child’s atoms are here, even as he climbs into the next

plane home. What a big open space I am. The way these
electrons come together, you’d think I was real.

The Integrity of Matter (A Footnote)

Whether it be your own body’s matter
or an unanimated body’s matter
(as in stone), the integrity of all matter
is related to the fact that matter,

animated or unanimated, does matter,
which jibes with the fact that all matter,
stone, flesh, or combo, will matter
infinitely—that is, without end (a matter

of speculation), although facts of matter
existing in bodies, even stones, matter
less than the actual end of matter,
which, to a stone’s integrity, will matter

less than to yours—for you, animated matter,
care greatly about whether (or not) you matter.

Psalm 2.0

Composed entirely with iPhone’s Suggestion Bar

Dear lord I don’t know what I was
just thinking about you but I’m still
in bed with my life and death and
destruction and a few years ago
I was just in my head and shoulders.
I love it when people say they will
not let you down. I have no clue
who you are. The fact is that I
have no clue who I am. I just have
a little more time with the stars
and I don’t think you should be
able to do that to me. I’m so tired
of being the only one who can
make a difference in the morning.
I have a lot more to do with my
life and death and destruction and
a few days to get my nails done.
I can see you at the end of this
month. The only way to the gym
today is with my new phone and
it will not let me go.

A Ripple in the God

A nothing-breath. A ripple in the god. A wind.
—Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus 3

It’s so quiet here, not a peep from the Walmart next door.
And you, following the mountains north and north.
Those Sangre de Cristos. A billion years old. Snowshod. Bloody.

Strange gods arrive from near and far and very far.
When light falls I see moon faces. (A reunion.)
What did you say—there’s nothing left to get you high?

I’ve already used the word tequila in a poem we drank years ago.
Now four and twenty blackbirds devour the pi(e).
Get here soon. The mountaintops are rippling. I can’t hold back the gods.

Immortal #9

Immortality doesn’t normally appeal to me, although magic squares seem innocent enough.

4     9     2
3     5     7
8     1     6

Of nine muses—Sally Field, Olive Oyl, the Sargasso Sea, the IRT, Stevie Wonder, Fibonacci, robots, teal, and Yoko—all but one have appeared to me in a poem uninvited.

The number nine is not a prime number, but I don’t hold that against it.

There are nine underground worlds (Aztec), nine circles of hell (Dante), and nine months of summer (Miami).

Nine o’s in the combined names of Yoko Ono Lennon and John Ono Lennon.

Ah! Böwakawa poussé, poussé. (9 syllables)

The Ennead (nine Egyptian deities) decided who could be born and who could pass on to the afterlife. See also: nine Supreme Court judges.

The Peacemaker, Enneagram Type 9, is the type of many famous people—e.g., Carl Jung, Whoopi Goldberg, Ringo.

Finally, the Norse god, Odin, hung himself on an ash tree for nine days to learn the runic alphabet and teach it to humanity. Who would care that much about language, I ask myself while singing so loud you can hear me all the way to the ninth (defunct) planet. It’s there that the peacemakers find me, there where they call my name.

Maureen Seaton has authored seventeen poetry collections, both solo and collaborative—most recently, Fibonacci Batman: New & Selected Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2013); and, with Denise Duhamel, Caprice: Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Her awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize, Lambda Literary Award, the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award, and an NEA Fellowship. Her work has been honored in both the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls, also won a Lammy. She teaches at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 14)

 
If you have ever scored an especially amazing present which was difficult (if not downright painful) not to prematurely reveal, then you know how my team and I have felt while assembling the current issue of Posit! So it is with great excitement — and no small bit of relief — that we offer the masterful works of poetry and prose by this issue’s distinguished roster of contributors. Perhaps it is not such a surprise, in light of the current geopolitical climate, that certain themes recur in a number of these works. I’m thinking, for instance, of the psychology of questionable celebrity (via Lydia Davis and Joe Milazzo), the breadth and violence of domestic and global injustice (Tongo Eisen-Martin, Rajiv Mohabir, Sarah Riggs), and the toxic confluence of fraudulence with power (Joanna Fuhrman). But here you will also find a robust literature of love and hope — for instance, in the tender yet powerful work of Maureen Seaton, Rajiv Mohabir, Lynn Schmeidler, Debasis Mukhopadhyay, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Sarah Riggs. In other words, the literature in this issue casts a penetrating light on our critical collective ills — and on how they might yet be transcended.

So don’t miss:

Stephanie Berger’s lyric explorations of relation on both the personal and the global scale, entailing and enacting the “ethereal chasing the unspeakable” to an end which “isn’t the point & yet . . . is indispensable;”

The brilliance and precision of Lydia Davis’s Five More Claims to Fame, as sharp as a laser and as probing, bringing her profound but subtle humor to bear on human vanity and the inescapable distortions of subjectivity;

Tongo Eisen-Martin’s virtuosic convocations of voices from the besieged, indomitable heart of American urban reality, in which “the start of mass destruction / Begins and ends /in restaurant bathrooms / That some people use /And other people clean” — viewed with wisdom, musicality, and love by this “conductor of minds / In a city-wide symphony / waving souls to sing;”

Joanna Fuhrman’s witty and chiseled reimaginings of received mythoi of poetic authenticity and presidential honor, in which we learn that “before George, there was another / first president,” although, resonantly, “when the rivers voted for him, / the earth cratered in shame;”

Kevin McLellan’s spare and resonating koan-like meditations on reality, perception, identity, and existence, which is “not unlike the uncertainty // behind these open bulkhead / doors” in which one is “put into motion // from falling and stilled by / the thought of crawling;”

Joe Milazzo’s exploration of the psychology of minor celebrity, the porosity of its self-love and self-loathing, “bold shame free-styling / out towards air taken with itself,” as well as the breathless virtuosity of Palindromes Are the Fascistic Imagination’s Anagrams, its “limp exercise trailing / the mad pudge of gesticulations / tracing / the glutinous curl;”

Rajiv Mohabir’s lush and generous yet precisely turned paens to love and life and survival in the face of “beetles worm[ing] from the mouths of saints, / words rotting in books” and “the fires all about telling me / a mass extinction looms / and I should drop my flowers / and run;”

Debasis Mukhopadhyay’s love songs to poetry, polarity, and “the rainstorms behind the kites, the pantomime in the trammels, the trampoline behind the rampages,” laying his “bare hands on the whispering rivet” of the sweepstakes of the imagination;

Sarah Riggs’s HEARD (Crisis), balanced, along with our endangered planet, on the edge of hope and alarm, struggling with delicate wisdom and poetic alchemy to engage these uneasy times in which “freedoms / crash[ ] together into one giant globe-wreck” so as to avoid “render[ing] the time a point / of contention rather than a beautiful /mingling of constantly translating spaces;”

Maureen Seaton’s lyric riffs on the eternal themes of love, mortality, poetic heritage, and the very fabric of reality, via the pared-down, unvarnished magic of her beautifully turned phrases (“I’m still / in bed with my life and death and / destruction”), and potent imagery (“The way these / electrons come together, you’d think I was real;” “The mountaintops are rippling. I can’t hold back the gods”);

Lynn Schmeidler’s arresting lyric examinations of the tension and complexity of the way things are, as opposed to how we wish they were — treated with grace, originality, and the optimism that “it’s still early in the world of tomorrow and each new word is a machine;”

and the litanistic intonations of Stu Watson’s Kleptomaniac Thomas Hardy Wedding, nimbly juggling startling collisions of image and meaning like a “fraternal knot dry heaved out from [the] earth” with the musicality of rhyming couplets “floating by on a river of glee | flowing freely from a guilting mob.”

Happy reading!

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 14!

The political and aesthetic maps generated by the fertile imagination Malala Andrialavidrazana tell intricate stories of the history of colonization. Taking Africa as her focal point, these works marry the history of continents and cultures with a distinctively contemporary sensibility expressed via intricate layers of image, both descriptive and decorative.

The sculptural installations of Lorrie Fredette refer to the multiplicity of organisms, the elegant architecture of natural forms, and the phenomenon of reproduction. She uses a critical mass of objects to completely transform and interior space. Each installation relates directly to the site in which it is installed, creating magical worlds of form and shadow.

To view Brenda’s Goodman’s paintings is to witness an intensive dance between intellect and intuition. Her work is a passionate exploration of form, figure, color, and narrative. Every painting tells a story, be it abstract or literal. These narratives are fiercely personal, yet contain the power to reach out of the canvas and connect with each viewer. They are both beautiful and substantive — a powerful combination.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel travels the five boroughs of New York City documenting the eccentric and beautiful people that he meets along the way. A self-taught photographer, he has an unerring instinct for how to engage and capture that perfect moment in street photography. His subjects, carefully posed for the camera, reveal humor and pathos.

And Jill Parisi’s work delights in the vagaries of nature. Her installations dance across walls like swarms of beautiful critters. The single objects ask us to focus on the patterns and delights of the natural world. Her mastery of the art of printmaking is revealed in the fluidity with which she moves between materials and techniques.

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern