Nils Michals


Nothing lives in there. In fact, there may not even be a there. How else can one say this? It looks like a box, glows a soft white, but once in the vicinity, a hand passes right through. And yet within—what fastens itself there: an entire forest, petrified white, whereby the occasional breeze stirs the crowns, lightly rasps at the roof. Ossified pine cones, bleached needles, lines of sap into concretized veins. The entire scene glazed to a gloss. If a tree falls, it turns to ash mid-air, and the lone dove of a feather that flocks to make a finer dove eats that air, expires. Do you really need to ask who your family is? A third party approaching from a great distance and out of the far right corner is not your mother. As for that baritone in the head, be your own father. One hypothesis has it made of a cold light, compatible only with a glacial origin. Another says, having been digitally enhanced, it will soon fill sleek shopfronts with a logo we can’t help but involuntarily consume. There is no other way to say this. This box comes from a corner that (a) is not even there or (b) has been there so long there is no longer a there. In Iceland, in August twenty-twelve, a missing woman joined the search for herself. It is not (surprise) at all like that: stepping out with others into a volcanic canyon, walking softly onto mossy lava, wanting to help find what’s right there. It is not at all like the photograph in your hand of a face eerily your own.



This is the little box made of ticky-tacky sung about in nineteen sixty-four. In the event you do not remember it is on a hillside, one among many in a row, a sugary pastel that cannot be shook. Did you know that longing begets longing? I did. As such, there are no real surprises in this box, the outside of which is encrusted with crudely glued Chinese crystals. Inside is something that goes unclaimed, then is gifted to the Church in the name of a holy work that shall be named later. For a half century the box fills with a kind of cotton candy nebula, spitting strands of pink floss. Weather changes fundamentally. The sea pulls cliffs down, halves of mansions. What was good for you then is now its opposite. Many of one particular crystal go missing. You say you reserve a place within of tremendous sadness for the poor upon whom youth and beauty have been wasted. Why? Don’t you know where your home is? What would you not give up or do? Vast powers over fields? Become a barn owl so as to murder in the rafters another barn owl? In some form or another the deficiencies inside the daydreams of princesses and bankers surface as a kind of insolvency. Someday the robe will slip off the young woman’s bare shoulders in a purely accidental way. People will be watching. That the box will resurface just then is no coincidence. And fitting. Who would not manufacture for themselves, however counterfeit, precisely what it is they are missing? Inside, on a bed of fine pink satin, a handful of slightly pinker candy rosettes.



So admittedly there are some slightly terrible things. Perhaps the box is not one to open as the shape has come to represent in popular opinion a reprehensible grievance. Perhaps, despite protestations, there was never a box at all. A man, a woman, and a child have a sum difficult to quantify. There are unmentionables in each: tiny keys to fictional padlocks, small infidelities in valleys, literal inabilities to communicate. Remember the wee little key perched on a ring of stirrup bone deep inside your left ear? Did you retrieve it? Yes? It is (surprise) a hopeless thing, a waste of brass and plated nickel better utilized for a coin, for a pacemaker, to green glass. As the story goes, the item, wrapped in newspaper, was presented to a prostitute, the request to keep this object carefully. We know the famous story of the painter’s ear because it explains a way of seeing we can’t ourselves express. The request is in the careful keeping, implicitly the keeping of the hearing of words, which is a slow work unto itself, like the dragging of a magnet through sand. Yes, we must hear the words a painfully chosen few deem important, but certain musics make a jetliner more beautiful in the sky. Weren’t you that child watching the enchanted iron leap? Watching a contrail materialize across a supportless blue? Of what were you just slightly aware? The next time someone asks where you’re from, say you’re allochthonous, which will grant you license to do some terrible and stupid things, which as we all know, is what people do when they’re not from around here.

Nils Michals’ first book Lure was published in 2004 by Pleaides and LSU Press. More recently, Come Down to Earth won the New Hampshire May Sarton Award and was published by Bauhan Publishing in 2014. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, and teaches at West Valley College.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 5)


Welcome to Posit 5!

In this issue we are proud to feature literary and visual work by many rising, as well as gloriously risen, stars. As ever, we offer a range of literary aesthetics and approaches, from excerpted book-length projects by Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton, Jane Lewty, and Deborah Poe, to short fiction by Luke Whisnant. This issue also showcases the poetic potential of the long prose line, put to innovative and distinctive use by Stephanie Anderson, Rob Cook, Kristina Marie Darling, Vanessa Couto Johnson, Bobbi Lurie, and Zach Savich.

We hope you enjoy:

Stephanie Anderson’s delightfully surreal and surprising Ditties, in which “everyone sits in the yo-yo park, staring at the buds,” and we are playfully invited to “look up the appendix” but warned not to “ride in the wrong direction”;

Marcia Arrieta’s gossamer constructions, at once contemplative, startling, and forlorn, in which “everything is dreadfully calm,” “deer come and graze on [her] bed,” and the narrator “often feel like an orphan”;

Rob Cook’s somber, foreboding poems in which he informs us of “the screams where I went / looking / for the clothes / my mother wore”;

Kristina Marie Darling’s wittily slant re-imaginings of nostalgic iconographies of femininity, charting their magical courses “from Iceland to Finland to anxious”;

Vanessa Couto Johnson’s wise wordplay delivered via statements that “think with the delicate,” awakening us to the mystery and ambiguity of our own existence, in which “the heart is not a pound but an apothecary dispensing needs”;

Jane Lewty’s “Spatio-Temporal [Re]Mix” of aural and visual referents amalgamated with precision and care into poems of musicality and provocative design, resonant with “a strange elation,/the skitter guilt of/achievement”;

Bobbi Lurie’s dense and powerful evocations of strength in the face of pain, shunning what is “fake as plastic shrubs” to reveal “how much the pursued is pursuant upon/a clause in the material fabric of a lie” with “the skill to slice whatever needs to”;

Nils Michals’ prose poems, teasing us with the contents of boxes: “an entire forest, petrified white, whereby the occasional breeze stirs the crowns” and something “unclaimed . . . is gifted to the Church in the name of a holy work that shall be unnamed”;

Deborah Poe’s quiet, serene “prouns:” elegant transformations of space to states of being we “don’t have to understand” although we are led to consider “[w]hat is lost when you ask why,” and assured that we “don’t have to connect dirt to language, But the histories cave right there”;

Zach Savich’s spare, starkly simple nuggets of imagist magic, demonstrating that “the things I like are the things that happen,” in other words, why “pleasure educates”;

Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton’s feminist appropriation of classical oral tradition in which “women’s work is never shunned” and “the skies [keep] circling the/liberated hearth” where the female body is sung by its self and she/we can feel genuinely “welcome to the symposium”;

and Luke Whisnant’s post-apocalyptic flash fiction about a mandolin virtuoso in whose “music [resides] the anguished song of a headless doll and the rubato stagger of a cripple’s broken crutch.”

Thank you for reading!
Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 5!

Made from found and fabricated objects, Mari Andrews’ sculptures delicately dance the line between nature and nurture, form and object. Each piece suggests a multitude of possible references. At once open-ended and concrete, her works are bits of sculptural poetry.

Kevin Brisco’s series “Build” presents a world of young men at work with muscular energy, both literally and imagistically. The raw materials that his images are painted on – wood, tape, and sheetrock – interact with the subject matter in a way that comments on the process and the product of a creative life.

The fact that Marcus Leatherdale uses the English colonial name for the Indian sub-continent, “Bharat,” in the title of this stunning photographic essay gives more than a clue as to its intent. This reference to India’s past jives perfectly with these elegant and haunting portraits of his friends and neighbors, imbued as they are with such a feeling of timeless nostalgia.

Oriane Stender’s work plays with the imagery and the objects of our material world. Using US currency and found paper, she sews, weaves, and paints these sly commentaries on the cultural interplay of commerce and art, image and meaning.

And finally, the video artworks by Tim Tate, elegantly framed in handmade glass, conjure the bits and pieces of half-remembered dreams. Their inhabitants share a moment with us and then, poof — they’re gone.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern