MC Hyland

The End

I get a haircut to mark my dissent. Made a white room breathe audibly. A white phone in my white hand camera rolling at the first sign of trouble. Floor pieced together from large slabs of plywood. Like stepping right from the stairs to the train. Little snows accumulate. Because you were given a set of choices. A room filled with boredom and chill air. Buoyed by tiny lucks. Who came back bearing greenery. Who made it out in the brief ceasefire. To build a face from the materials of history. I wrote in the hope that the bitterness of the final years could be allayed or staved. Because now our job is to protect each other. Not to lean against the decorative features. Smell of pine expands through the apartment. Waiting for the first explosion. If you don’t receive money you may call your labor unalienated. Little ice shattered by the curb. Sent the students out into the city. Piled into a taxi in a luxurious afternoon. What conditions end quickly like a curtain dropping. I urgently needed not to pass. Or a hobby like skiing. Before I came here poetry was a thinly dispersed ecosystem of friends. Living in and for meatspace. Resting the heavy bag for just a moment on the stair.

The End

A man sleeps on the station floor in loving embrace with a pit bull. Tree lights fade brighten and blink. I wanted you to channel some sobriety through our held hands. We called this going home. Unmade by uncertainty and the theatrical rollout of the new order. I consider a muskrat skull as a gift to my love. On the screen the beautiful suit of the assassin. Capital sleeps like a shark. A boy swinging in the aisle like a trapeze artist. Who lit a candle for the electors. White walls. Circulating all night through our bodies. Honey-light on evening faces. All the cars along the avenue gritted in winter silt. How to unmake the singularities of our personal narratives so biography better resembles weather. Pleasure becomes a responsibility. New survival techniques fly south. The way each tree branch swings and invisibly tugs its fellows. The year slipping along its rails. Who found a space in the mouth for a new kind of laughter. Breaths. Swedish pancakes and Amish commemorative trivets. Endless western sky remade my face. I believed I could lie curled inside the giant disco ball. Simply waiting for the idea to appear. How to love you without fulfilling your desires. We did not file a police report because we do not trust the police. This was an affective prehistory of the crisis. Make it a trespass artist. To lie down inside the rhythm of your sleeping breath.

The End

Prepare another pot of tea and look up medical gifs on your phone. Little glints of light from LA MEXICANA GROCERY. Sadness registers as a lag in the machinery. Some blackened leaves just hang there. How does sound echo through your interior spaces. My life of waterways. Sang I Know Where I’m Going into the empty train station. Jerky motion of time within the institution. Morning milks over into a colorless sky. Hello to the handsome young man in his blue apron. Blue light over the PIONEERS AND SOLDIERS CEMETERY. One dress immune to the power of the tumble dryer. Advanced into every day. Into the room filled with her curiously inflected speech. I too dislike these coastal elites. A dense gray cloud hovers on the mountain. To maintain belief in the face of Texas. To date a city through its real estate page. The sky turns briefly and improbably blue. I meant we were a kind of weather or a kind of time. You asked for a bathrobe and were given the bathrobe of your dead father. Black spines of books build a black block in vision. Fibers buried in the nail polish. Each node in the system to generate and pass through a series of emails. Sweat it out on the couch. All the moving prospect of the city lined up for you in the waning light.

The End

All bodies leak. Planes arc overhead while history seems to plunge. As though easy journey from his deathbed were possible. Meanwhile the rain picks up. The canal turns left near a circular structure and carries you along the path. A lack of physical discipline means suffering continues mostly unameliorated. What next generation. On the wall a woman holds a large white lotus and a machine gun. Blood in the nose persists. The shape of each finger describable as a tightly packed spiral. Mostly I have become a series of gestures. The studio disarticulated and moved a hundred feet north. Three steps to the right as you turn the crank. I begin to understand the early decades of adulthood as a time of relative continence. Leaving a small pen mark on the microfiber of the couch. One physiotherapist is a dancer while the other lifts weights. The way a body might sex or become sexed. The weight of a body tending towards the earth. In Becca’s apartment I pick up a sponge and begin to wash the cabinets. Slowly rising and falling with a wobbling motion within a landscape of barges and cargo trains. Up the elevator and down the stairs. Imagined a film of dead cells clinging to the bedsheets. Not to seek for conditions. The step between providing a body to swell the march and arming for revolution. Sore blocked pore in the spot where the glasses rest. If the production of expression is a simply economic imperative. Still I assumed no postures before sunrise.

The End

We learn from Congress that the revolution begins after midnight. See something and keep your fool mouth shut. Like desire for a sea. A couple embraces at the crosswalk’s verge. Against sunset. What I mean is uninterrupted. Let us say that we live in bodies and that these bodies live in time. On the bridge a blue and a red light blink and blink. Imagine a room that has perfect scale. Institutions you believe in or simply believe. Marvelous birds. Because joy arrives with a political undertow. Call it an outskirt. Glitter nail polish peeling up in a sheet. How music builds a continuous present into which a thought might drop. Wifed down in sorrow. Having become a granulation in distant weathers. The present a tense before it was a time. Let us take this sentence’s rhythm as prophylactic. Here in the future texting back to a world that came before.

The End

What does love have to do with nations. We walk to the platform’s other end for something to do. Drops on a window. Wrote WITHHOLD CONSENT on corrugated cardboard. Made a notch with a fingernail for each protection. To keep refusing the seat. Whistles from the school same as always. Where contingency appears. A stranger pulled me close while protest filled the laundromat screen. Some people live like pharaohs in their country. What the Coalition called MONOLINGUAL BITCHES. What does love have to do with partnership. A brass band at the park’s edge. Worker slowdown forms a little cloud of hope. Empty vodka bottle. Drunken kisses linger in the coat. A new round of alternative twitter accounts. Count down blocks to the place we once lived. Every day opens into logical fallacy. Same tile in the foyer. Single albino pigeon in the flock. The administrators commit to waiting out dissent. This is the loneliness of syntax. What does love have to do with history. Mail your mind two years into the future. Black heart emoji. Composed a slate of new national holidays. Looking down on bare trees. I gently put my finger in a hole worn through the wrist.

MC Hyland is a PhD candidate in English Literature at New York University, and holds MFAs in Poetry and Book Arts from the University of Alabama. From her research, she produces scholarly and poetic texts, artists’ books, and public art projects. She is the founding editor of DoubleCross Press, a poetry micropress, as well as the author of several poetry chapbooks and the poetry collection Neveragainland (Lowbrow Press, 2010).

Editors’ Notes (Posit 17)


“What does love have to do with history,” asks MC Hyland in her poem, The End, a question which nicely sets the stage for the remarkable work we’ve gathered for you here. This 17th issue of Posit is a weighty one, to be dived into; to be savored. Many of these poems address identity and personal relation, contextualized. Some convey public dismay along with private encouragement, because, as Jessica Wickens points out in Department Store Days, “real life is still awesome.” Some resemble status reports, or instructions on how to move forward in a “culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become” (Paul Hoover, Chinese Figures) — a society guilty of “underestimating the underestimated” (Patricia Hartnett, Silos) — an “established order” characterized by “the horror” and “meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture” (Andrew Levy, Summertime Blues). Others address the “hidden interiors” of art-making, and all that is “racing against / its very own appearance” (Steve Barbaro, Articles of Capitulation), or its nurturance and conservation, in light of “the impossibility / of repetition” (Norma Cole, Ongoing). Yet, even while “[p]lanes arc overhead while history seems to plunge” (Hyland), there is good news amidst the bad, since who knows what “will ignite from / the smallest spark” (Cole).

Despite what Adorno identified as the “complicity that enfolds all those who, in the face of unspeakable collective events, speak of individual matters at all,” these works make the case for its necessity — for the necessity to “be the blueprint” (Asiya Wadud), “[t]o build a face from the materials of history” (Hyland), to take personal responsibility in a reality in which “no one is a spectator” (Hartnett, Complicit). In fact, they make the case for the necessity of poetry itself, whose “reaching keeps us from never nursing doom” (Wadud, my decent one). Because, as Denise Leto puts it in Mystic with a Dishtowel: “A hole in the air that empties air: this is what it is not to be able to read poems.”

Here, then, is the physic for that affliction.

In Steve Barbaro’s poems, an elegant voice contemplates fumaroles, insects, the desire to be away from the world, and a painting by Cezanne. In The Pond, narrative content and the composition of the painting blend into the dream of one of the painted “sitters” and then into the viewer’s own “fall” into the painting, “their face gradually mixing with the scarcely shown face of the water… not that one must necessarily see something to see, of course,” going on to muse that nothing can ever really be seen, “except as something racing against its very own appearance.” And in Articles of Capitulation, the narrator makes a revelatory/revealing inquiry into nature and self: “Is it surprising that the world flaunts only such coy hints of its most ominous flutterings?”

In keeping with the title, Norma Cole’s Ongoing transcends reductive notions of beginnings, endings, or progress itself, “unfurling” like a textile or an “ascending raga” to explore riches below the surface, like the Dunhuang caves they consider, or any “tumulus . . . barrow . . .[or] kurgan.” Like those caves, these stanzas are “placeholder[s] / filled with treasure,” charged with an energy not to be defeated, any more than “magma,” “carpels tough as nails / surviving ice ages,” that which “will ignite from / the smallest spark,” or the intensity humming beneath the quiet calm of this powerful work.

In magical collages that partake of landscape and anatomical section drawings to create their own genre, David Felix “balanc[es] verse and sign” so “we [can] scan the horizon.” Against delicate color, the bold play/puzzle of typography, in which the repeated ‘a’ in one poem marks the visual row where a “draughtsman’s hand had planted limes” reveals the perfect fit of “making bared,” creating a shared ground for philosophy and lyric to reveal that “Time is a horse in a field and no horse in another” and the future “is certainly not here with you and I right now.”

Patricia Hartnett’s philosophical/psychological investigations of the “harm and charm” of complicity, risk, maturation/self-definition, and the contest between mammon and the “unruly” issue their Delphic pronouncements with mystery and precision. To the exquisite sensitivity of a narrator “stranded out here in America / with everyone else equal parts greed and fable” on “another morning under the newly revealed metal fist of the grin,” the “harm and charm and hazard” of America, aging, and perhaps existence itself, “sound . . . down the body like an alarm” even as they look, as do these finely chiseled poems, “like brilliant kites.”

In aphoristic verses whose melodic prosody is propelled by a driving rhythm peppered with thought-provoking turns and returns, Paul Hoover considers how we navigate Time and art-making in a moment when prosperity means “everyone sleeps alone / on the ice of his choosing” and “no one spends attention // we’re overloaded now / every surface known” in “a culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become.” At the same time they remind us that, thankfully, “what isn’t is // what could be” — that it’s still possible to let go of the “zig-zag parade,” to “read the reader /and be read // . . . by the ones [we] / soon will be.”

Woven into the powerful prose of MC Hyland’s The End are the meditations of a “trespass artist” “trying to build a face from the materials of history” in the “affective prehistory of the crisis” of these difficult times, in which “capital sleeps like a shark,” we are “unmade by uncertainty and the theatrical rollout of the new order” and “joy arrives with a political undertow,” even if we are sometimes “buoyed by tiny lucks” — such as the pleasure of reading these rich and wise poems.

Denise Leto’s dreamlike poems explore a sea to which she holds a magical and “Mythical Map,” treating us to mysterious images like the “radical gloss of radiation” or a “face scattering the shorebirds.” In these spellbinding stanzas, a “Sicilian fishing port no longer maps” and “[e]ating is a womb…of those who are under” in a world in which the “church can’t think—it is more like a spoon.”

Andrew Levy entices us to gorge on his feasts of observations and pronouncements, exhortations and advice for navigating “another heartbreaking day” faced with “the meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture.” His wry linguistic turns and ominous bluntness bring a “kaleidoscopic return of clarity” to a devastating critique of our “unconscious sojourn dropped in final / spasms of dislocation,” even while reminding us to “digest and finish the mission, ride the fall” in light of “the small pleasures in the / wondersome by all this perfect smart.”

Laura McCullough’s stunning suite of poems reluctantly accepts and does not accept the difficulty of intimacy. The objects in the poems — knife, bulldozer, tree — participate like living partners in the despair. Marriage (intergenerational) introduces “a man … bending his wife … around something she has bent herself around all her life,” who then “gets this knife … if she likes… — one with a curved tip — and skin[s] her like she’s never been skinned.” In Marriage (wood and dog) the ordinary situation of chopping wood for the winter reveals the couple’s “separate fantasies” for the use of an abandoned bulldozer, “things they are each ashamed of and can’t’ imagine sharing.”

Douglas Piccinnini’s bleak but graceful verses contemplate identity and suffering in a world of our constant construction in which “you” (i.e. we) “”teach/your hands” with your hands” until you “become yourself in spite of yourself.” With spare lyricism, these poems land us neck-deep in a frightening, if universal, human condition in which a “house is like a house on fire” inside of which “there is no news at all.”

Brad Rose’s prose poems employ a laconic, dark humor to present a narrator who “lead[s] a quiet life” which “[y]ou can read about … in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems,” even while he needs to speak to an attorney “who knows about the death penalty.” One of Rose’s concerns is the act of thinking: “I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation,” and the way thoughts connect, as in nerve synapses or a cracked mirror, yet holding deep lyrical truth: “It’s quiet inside a mountain — coal dark, the aftertaste of ants.”

With an “exactness which / Takes courage,” Asiya Wadud offers prose and verse poems which glow with “a faultless aura” of embodied yet ethereal light. Like the narrator in Be the blueprint, each form manages to organically unfurl the precise architecture of its unique project, offering “this complete orb, this leaden strobe, this searing, direct heat . . . this . . . weighted gold” of her finely wrought prosody, “as delicate as a new quail cupped in [her] light,” capable of “fillet[ing] the softest parts // To glean the glowing parts” with the grace and power of “a quake on a tender fault line.”

The unflinching gaze and bracingly direct voice of Jessica Wickens’ “stories from fragments” find cause for celebration even amidst the painful reality of our existence. These poems remind us that “happiness is a journey not a destination” and “real life is still awesome,” even for those who “nap. . . on the couch at salvation army” and other “casualties of our superficial train” in an America that “is a nonstop fucker of / prosperity and peace.”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann


Raven Halfmoon has a fierce story to tell. In her majestic ceramic sculptures, she examines questions of identity and cultural heritage, while at the same time making art that is deeply affecting. Her work, primarily images of women and their “accessories,” feels immediate and fresh. Big gestural marks in the clay combine with drips and flow of glossy glaze to remind us that the maker’s hand is always present. The work is bold and self-assured. These women with handbags, cigarettes and lipstick are not to be messed with!

William Eckhardt Kohler’s work harkens back to an earlier era when painting dealt with meaty issues such as surface and ground, representation and meaning. Richly painted, these canvases are admirable in their desire to ponder such questions, coming up with answers that are entirely personal. Kohler’s paintings are quite formally structured, while at the same time painted with a control and purpose that become an important part of the story. With a palette that is generally somber, he enlightens the visual stories he tells with hits of brilliant color, like the sun shining through clouds on a stormy day.

The sublimely beautiful paintings of Sarah Lutz dance between abstraction and representation with lovely grace. We see hints of what might be possible, like architectural detail, or a horizon line, but in these delicate works, nothing is certain. These paintings raise questions the viewer must answer. The open quality of the work means that each response is correct. Are these canvases scientific illustrations of an imaginary world? Are they landscapes of the mind? References to the natural world, as well as the history of decoration, abound. The resulting paintings are lyrical, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.

These Jennie Ottinger paintings are both hilarious and scary. They depict men and women (or boys and girls) in scenes of constant conflict. These works are painted with a deceptively loose, gestural hand, in a slightly sickly sweet palette; the color pink is used almost as weapon. Upon first glance, they could seem childish, but they are deadly serious. The people in Ottinger’s universe laugh, grimace, fight, and triumph within traditional American scenes. Her “cheerleaders” smile at the world through maniacal grins. The men in Ottinger’s paintings bear expressions of ambivalence. Perhaps they know their time is up.

The work of P. Elaine Sharpe raises more questions than it answers. Her mysterious “portraits” of hair are painted in such a way that they dance back and forth between “hair” and “brushstroke.” A self- described “pleasure- bot,” she makes work that conveys a passionate love of mark making, with seductive swirls and whorls of gleaming pigment. The sole figurative portrait, that of the artist observing her own work, hints, perhaps, to one meaning of this body of work, “Diary of a Seducer.”

Jerry Siegel photographs the world he knows. A lifelong resident of the South, he captures the people in his world with deep affection. Deeply saturated with rich, vibrant color, his photographs are portraits of people and places suffused with his own Southern identity. He is a master of catching the perfect moment that makes a photograph magical. He clearly has the street photographer’s gift of relating to strangers and drawing them out in his work. In their own way, the still lives are also portraits — of time and place rather than individuals.


Melissa Stern