Rich Ives

An Inevitable Territory

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

I try not to have any beliefs that don’t nibble on who I am or at least climb outside my inner territory, where they can become more than mere bright worms of knowing, like an exotic flavor perhaps; anise, fennel, caraway. When the ideas are forming, they look like bird droppings, and dangerous ignorance from my enemies falls away. This follows a pattern. I always question them three times to give them a sense of bold black and yellow stripes along their fresh green youth lines. They become an undulating tube of matter that walks on many legs to its own escape. It feels like a beautiful dark rising after its isolation, a flight of erratic testing careening softly above its own body.

Of course inside was once outside and outside will soon be back inside before it’s released altogether. Nothing under the sun is really new, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling completely reborn. Once I collected imaginary pianolas, one of them anyway, and pounded on it and teased it different ways to make it deceive me into multitudinous emanations that you’d swear had another source, a grand variety that was mine and not the pianola’s after all, but I felt rich with it and freed.

It’s what apologies do to you. When you make them to yourself, for your ignorance. Voluptuous tired little savages they are, and they can surround you with melody until you think you’re going to explode with such sacred knowing, but with such a record of silence, God will surely shut up soon. The little celery-worm ideals will turn back to what they once were, back to protecting their escaping flights from hungers with the smell of rancid butter. These cannot be everyone’s beauties that I experience, and I take upon myself a drab coloring to match the season. Sometimes my winter restrains me, but a warmth like two rows of yellow dots, bright, progressive and oozing the warmth of Spring, calls me back to my anchored body.

My beliefs are larger than the others now, feminine and blue, the yellow spots joined with orange, behind me in an imitation flight that follows and balances me. I can see two males fighting with their soft wild beautiful wings. I am the territory they will claim, and it’s more like my fulfillment and completion than you might imagine. I watch them pursue red-wing blackbirds, black t-shirts, anything beautiful or invasive, and I’m drawn deeper into myself with their impulsive desires.

And No More

Blister Beetle

I’ve been a parasite, I admit, but I’m growing. Life comes at us in stages. At first I couldn’t even use my legs, but I shed that skin and dug a chamber to live in while I built my final form, soft-bodied, short-winged, long-necked, brightly colored, and even iridescent, it seemed to me.

I worked on an oil rig where the locals called us oil beetles. We felt it inside us and oozed. Our body oil, we joked, made a kind of Spanish Fly, poisonous in larger doses. It stimulates hair growth in the right dilution.

We watched the cattle on the plains, wading below the cutbank like bored children. We offered them our own boredom, and they entertained it. Our little yellow dog was out there all day, looking for something he couldn’t understand. We waited for a more human wilderness.

The boys liked to break things because we were broken, and we still wanted to make something of ourselves, but Hayden, the one we thought of as our leader, wouldn’t crack, so we filled his boots full of rain. He stood outside himself and watched us, breathy, a great expanse shrinking toward maturity, where the hiss of his lithium gave just this much and no more.

The work gave us blisters. Weeks descended, and the grand tendon of Hayden’s neck still twitched while we tended at a distance his remarkable ardent fits of attention. The house his papa left him, long after his papa left him, brought the garden of a separated man into Hayden’s life, shaded and rife, slipping muscular and lean between unguent and Montana trillium.

That life he carried like meat, packed in and beaten against itself. When one of us passed the dream around, he let his cigarette down, and his eyes said, This is the last stick, and the last stick falls just hard enough to continue.

His deliberate downward motion fell against the earthy tendencies of his own body.

Just this much now and no more.

Rich Ives’ books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York—fiction chapbook), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books–stories), Old Man Walking Home in the Dark (Cyberwit-poems), A Servant’s Map of the Body (Cyberwit-fiction) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).

Editors’ Notes (Posit 24)

 

We’d like to welcome you to this very special 24th issue of Posit.

Although this is not the first time we have felt the need to temper our excitement to bring out a new issue with recognition of the troubles of our times, other recent troubles pale in comparison with the intensity of our current global crisis. It is difficult not to question the relevance of art during a pandemic which threatens our livelihoods, our lives, and the stability of our societies. However, curating the superlative work in this issue has reminded us of art’s capacity to transport us beyond our bodies and our trials — offering us the chance to look away, even while guiding us to look deeper.

And the work we have collected here could not be more resonant with these frightening times. For direct relevance, we are honored to present Laura Mullen’s penetrating and humane consideration of the pandemic itself. And we are proud to offer five master-crafted odes by D. A. Powell, as well as Lewis Warsh’s profound meditations on love, aging, and the brave if modest feat of perseverance. Many of the works collected here contemplate death, as well as the mysteries and perils of living, from the brilliant ruminations of Benjamin Paloff and Joel Chace, to the frank and forceful voices of Alexandra Egan and Shevaun Brannigan, to the analogical reasoning (by way of constellations on the one hand, and insects on the other) of Amy Strauss Friedman and Rich Ives, to the pared-down beauty of Laura Walker’s reimagined Psalms.

Like so many organizations in times of upheaval, Posit has undergone some restructuring. This issue is our first without the participation of Melissa Stern as Arts Editor. We could not be more grateful to Melissa for her magnificent and sustained contribution to this publication. Informed as it was by her taste, judgment, and knowledge of contemporary art, her curation greatly contributed to Posit’s eclectic aesthetic, enabling us to situate our poetry and prose in a more interdisciplinary, not to mention visually vivid, artistic context. In an era in which specialization too often devolves to Balkanization, the art Melissa gathered helped Posit chart another path.

Working on this issue, we have found solace and wisdom, release and renewal. We hope you will as well.

Susana Amundaraín’s renderings of place and light emit a quiet but intense energy. They are at once subdued and vibrant, somber and serene. Amundaraín’s paintings have an almost magnetic power: they beckon and pull, arousing in the viewer a desire to enter their layered and mysterious worlds. Interpretations of place rather than places, these abstract canvases are liminal, evoking windows, doorways, and crevices — pivot points where realities meet. Above all, they explore the seamless relation between light and shadow; layering subtle washes of rich blues, blacks, and umbers in a wide range of densities and textures, from the velvety to the translucent. Amundarain’s palette is at once earthy and ethereal: she works in soul tones. In these canvases, delicately layered sheets of color are dramatically punctuated — and brilliantly completed — by contrasting lines and dabs whose power and beauty recall Turner’s famous red buoy.

Shevaun Brannigan’s arresting imagery is as rich and resonant as it is surprising: “the road a run-over skunk’s tail,” the garbage truck with its “mouth . . . open, / a mattress stuck in its teeth,” the railroad crossing sign a raccoon mask, the sky a prom queen with its “taffeta layers, / that pink hue, a golden crown.” Many of these images wind through the course of Brannigan’s poems, accruing new implications even as they lead gracefully and organically to their successors. These powerful poems boldly confront the urge to escape the burden of trying to “be a good person” and push on past the narrator’s “frequent stops” and relish the “berries bursting in our mouths one note at a time” in “the den of our bed.”

As the title of his first poem tells us, Joel Chace’s verse is saccadic, exploring questions of aesthetics, philosophy, justice, and physics via nimble and erudite referential leaps, from Socrates to Zukovsky, from P.T. Barnum’s obscene exploitation of Joyce Heth to the torment inflicted on Io by Argos, from black hole cosmology to Charles Ives’ childhood. At choice moments the intellect informing these connections yields to lyrical beauty, leading the reader to pause “to / permit the golden dying of afternoon to relinquish / them.”

Alexandra Egan’s powerful and personal verse perfectly dissects the bitterness of death: not just the physical lack, but the emotional distancing: “I mourned each opulently . . . I cried and was ugly with it” but “each time I learned nothing, was selfish, maudlin.” In a definition of desolation, “the season stays cold as gangsters dirty rain tough as kindergarten.” And yet, we live in a paradox: “If I say I want to die / I only mean / like a matryoshka / each split doll / opens on another / shinier less useless/deathless.” Progress, in Egan’s view, is to “Know that you will die and marvel as you would at anything perfect and tiny you can crush with your hands.” But perhaps, “When you burn something the ash is soft like thank you.”

Amy Strauss Friedman’s brilliant constellation poems expand what the ancient Greek myths told in narrative form: human psychology. In rich and detailed language, the poems speak to us of our time, from the smallest connections of cells: “I diagnose you a cancer the scientific equivalent of pinned wrists in a burning barn,” to our terrestrial connections — “camouflaged in dermal scales,” pointing to the vastness of both our knowledge and our ignorance. As constellations of cells and vestiges of evolutionary change, our “fear of living small ablates us” as we look for “a fascicle of storms and thorns making the sky like nail holes in wood.”

In Karen Holman’s billowing universe, our understanding of creation, from “particle of conception in our extended family of Atom” through “each snip of code to the fluttering canopy of memory” with “everywhere women cooking, always cooking an alphabet soup” may be “proof of how lucky, unlucky we are” in “the documentary-romantic-dystopian-historical-musical tragicomedy. . . coming somewhere where someone is screaming fire in a theater near you.” Meanwhile, in the world of the minute, “a mining bee’s wings blows breath through his piccolo home, fish ascend to float through canopies of autumn” and we offer “bent knees . . . aquamarines brighter than oxygen.”

Rich Ives returns to Posit with two beautiful and mysterious prose pieces taking the perspective of particular insect species to contemplate the mysteries of identity, desire, destruction and remedy. The life cycle of Ives’ Black Swallowtail Butterfly, in which “inside was once outside and outside will soon be back inside before it’s released altogether” has wider resonance, as does the creature’s idea, which “walks on many legs to its own escape.” It is not only in that creature’s world that apologies are “voluptuous tired little savages” which “surround you with melody until you think you’re going to explode with such sacred knowing.” Like the human beings it observes, the Blister Beetle acknowledges: “I’ve been a parasite . . . but I’m growing,” observing boys who “liked to break things because [they] were broken.”

It’s an honor to include Laura Mullen’s masterful and moving response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 14 sections of Virus brilliantly unfold the contradictions, reversals and recursions of our confusion and fear, enacting our struggle to come to grips with what is killing us. Its litany of symptoms exposes the deeper implications of the crisis, both personal: “these are the symptoms dry cough fever / Empty shelves shortness of breath disbelief. . . Some of the symptoms / Include refunds and slight social adjustments / Toward mercy moving in the direction / Of justice” and political: “The symptoms include poor people / asking for debt relief and healthcare / And rich people congratulating them- / Selves on their “abundance of caution.” Amidst the fear and venality it probes, this beautiful and tragic poem wryly echoes Frank O’Hara’s invocation to Lana Turner (“oh S & P we love you get up”) while graciously including a “note to say thank you” and express “gratitude for each / Person who was careful.”

Benjamin Paloff’s poems etch a perceptive and tender philosophy of the contradictions of daily life: personal, physical, yet always intertwined with the underlying life of the mind. In this life, the narrative ‘I’ has “no reason to contradict or doubt anything said by anyone who has taken care of me” and “a dream about the inner lives of bees can end with an actual bee stinging me on my actual mouth.” In these poems, our hopes are shaped by our intellectual perceptions: “The angels have faces quite unlike those in art books. The sirens are singing with their baited hooks just to drown you on the sand. To see the forward-facing footprints of the backward-walking man.” Although it may be “excruciatingly difficult not to be distrustful when people declare April the cruelest month, when what they really mean is that April is the cruelest month for them,” these poems temper judgment with wonder: “the starfish-shaped shimmers along the invisible edge could be anything.”

In Rick Pieto’s striking Glitch poems, the intriguing palimpsest of interrupted and repeated visual symbols, color, and text suggests a possible new history, and future, for poetry — one stemming from visual as well as auditory or conceptual juxtapositions. Repurposing conventional poetic tropes while rethinking and resisting them in purely visual terms, Pieto’s visual poems invite us into a new poetic and visual multiverse where we might be able to imagine the possibility that “the field (itself) thinks.”

These five odes by D. A. Powell demonstrate the poet’s extraordinary stylistic and formal range, coupled with a master’s trust in the power of simplicity to plumb depth, and playfulness to attain gravitas. From a guilty-laughter-inducing tribute to a beef steer; to a relaxed but lilting homage to the Brazil’s ineffable magic (“bc though proper / yr improper / when you need to be”); to the near-vispo feat of First Strains, recombining only three letters to achieve not only its visual resemblance to musical notation but its aural kinship with an owl’s hoot; to the colloquial bravado of The Next Big One (“Take me up in your Rolls and // Rock me daddy”); to the haiku-like solemnity of the 17-syllable Valentine’s Day — these poems demonstrate Powell’s ease with his chosen medium, along with his empathy, attention, and sly wit.

The human figures and their oversized avian companion/protectors at the heart of Alex Stark’s canvases are frequently doubled, but sometimes halved: connected to one another, if at times divided from themselves. The visual and thematic implications of doubling saturate these emotionally charged tableaux. For instance, Stark’s upbeat, almost naïvely rosy color palette conveys a gentle optimism even while suggesting unprotected flesh. The ineffable yet subtly distorted grace of these men and birds conveys a sense of harmony and vulnerability. In their faces we see both pain and joy, fear and wonder. These gentle, giant birds offer the men shelter and solace, as do their Edenic surrounds. Stark uses colored pencil and acrylic to create a light network of shimmering lines and patches of color that breathe with life and feeling.

In Laura Walker’s poems, the lyrical cadence and lovely simplicity of the King James Book of Psalms re-emerge and resonate in a contemporary context. The speaker’s words, like the psalms, encompass self and other, but are grounded in contemporary life. “I see you there or think I do / perched on a fence with your pantsleg rolled up / eating a pear or an apple.” Although the poems are responses to individual psalms, they eschew the literal. Walker subtly and brilliantly reworks both context and language from the King James version, such as “heathen rage” and “vain thing,” which are converted in psalm 2 to “a veined thing / rage.” In other poems, the relationship of praise and love inherent in the idea of psalms remains, while the music reverberates: “your name is a plucked thing in my mouth.”

These brilliant new poems by Lewis Warsh are tributes to the limited rewards and unlimited effort of life’s one-way, one-chance path. As powerful as they are understated, they look truth in the eye, eschewing the temptation to “drop a tincture of snake oil on / the scar tissue.” Instead, they honor the perseverance it takes to continue “after so many years of fighting our / way out of a paper bag” “while all the buildings where we spent / the night crumble into dust.” Recalling Keat’s To Autumn, Johnson Road peers from the literal and metaphoric season, when “each hour a little more light vanishes” to what lies beyond, “lost in shadow.” In Warsh’s remarkable volta, the gaze shifts from the pastoral to the stark specter of final judgment, when “the prosecutor /will present inadmissible evidence / to the jury of one’s peers.” Like Second Chance, Night Sky notes the humble rewards of carrying on: “Tuesday Matinees / at the Triplex. The forklly understatift / operator’s wife at the end of the bar.” Surveying such moments from a swift sampling of lives and eras, the poem hauntingly sums up the coda waiting for us all: “Night-life in the baggage / claim area with no where / to go.”

And Frank Whipple’s collages deploy fragments of antique images and ephemera to depict a speculative and surrealistic reality populated by disturbing human/object chimeras. Many are domestic scenes featuring adults and children in genteel 19th Century attire with inanimate objects, or even abstractions, for heads. At times there is a sedate, almost becalmed nostalgia to these tableaux, invaded by vaguely frightening intrusions from a universe not subject to our physical laws. What we glimpse is at once stable and unnerving, unfamiliar and yet incomprehensibly recognizable. The dream-like resonance of these images, along with their eerie relevance, adds weight to their compositional balance and rich, subtle color palettes.

We hope you enjoy these, and that you and yours stay safe and well.

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

Rich Ives

Upset

I look down and find a brown streak on my pants,
and realize I’ve been punked by a malformed candy wrapper.

In Japan it’s only funny if the banana peels
are cherry blossoms, but here I am thinking about

the way love needs respect even though it reveals itself departing,
and this is where I’d put the entrance of civilization.

You might want to go the other way, but the moments would still
come streaming in, and I’d make them pay for it, and I might be

the only one who knew. Sometimes a man has found himself
where he should not be, and an unasked for beauty breaks him open.

This house is busy imitating a home, and this door is only a door because
the countries grow quickly and misbehave, and because the map

found me dutiful and divided in the single intention of arriving.
As large as the behavior was, we had a couple hours to kill.

Such things come about and begin again.
The opposite of now is not always then.

Useful Conclusions Drawn from Flawed Reasoning

A woman with a green twig in her hair apologized,
and I didn’t know what I was accepting because I realized
there could have been many unnatural lights in evidence.

Time is transparent. You cannot live there, but you can visit
constantly. I’ve been chewing on the hill across the valley
for days now. I believe in exploding the one flower.

We pull time out of its box on a string, but time has no box. It’s built
on logic, and you live there surrounded by reasons for leaving.
A collection of guests beneath the table may not remain beneath.

A complete horse arrives slowly, his full presence preceded by
the amazing muscles that represent him. Maybe I’ve got
the wrong idea dancing on my shoulders. An Atlas might help.

You will not, however, fall into the past, but there are moments there
that will fall into you. If you do not argue or exaggerate, they will not
be available for regressive strolling down temporarily wooded avenues.

I dedicate my shirt to this warmth and remove it. It waits for
my garden to arrive at its location peaceful and lonely, a cat with a tall
firefly in its mouth, one of the more unnatural lights in evidence.

A Problem of Historical Perspective

Some of the things we failed to do for our neighbors
got in the way. We tried to remove them one at a time.

The whole point is to validate your anger
and eat less. The reason for this makes you angry,
which is not the same. You have to say it to the road
and choose to stay home.

So that you’re not repeating yourself.
So that you’re not just there where you were
and not here where you are either.

Aren’t you tired of tired and sleeping? Aren’t you sleeping?

You have to beat on it to loosen the meat’s attachments.

(In a textbook only the apprehended viewer lives in the event of a certain village, which otherwise seems to have forgotten its people and even its bees and miraculously produced independent flowers and houses and shelters for farm animals that have melted into the purposeful stones.)

Surprising then that such a disaster could create us.

What can I say? I’m a nail.
I got hammered.

Indifferent and not offensive, in the manner of children, these carpenters.

(She’s saying please don’t.
He’s saying when.
She’s saying time’s irrelevant.
He’s saying here have some.)

We walked as if each step had no need
of returning to the pavement.

(A great cow of darkness was repeating its useful stomachs.)

When the first cities arrived, we invited them
to contain us, but not all of us.

So that as neighbors, we wrote things down and tore them up and made things from the things we had made, which gave us a kind of pride to exchange for more goods.

Fathers collected the evidence in boats and sailed them faithfully.

Mothers held on to some things and let go of some other things. Mothers wrote it all down. We flew from these parents as airplanes might. If the airplanes in question had not been allowed wings.

(We admired the fragrant milky bleating of the risen lamb.)

Philosophers thought about which things we were getting right and which things we were forgetting. The latter they could not think about for long. And then the philosophers thought about why the philosophers were thinking about the philosophers.

(I was there with myself and I was
watching. No one could take me farther,
an historical lion purring like a powder puff.)

(The guy driving doesn’t like to drive, but then
the limping car doesn’t like to go anywhere either,
so we sit there and enjoy the compromise while
the garage ticks under the fat window-seeking rain
and the silent radio seems to be singing along.)

Our children seemed to be entertained by the developments in sewage conveyance but complained of the odor. We allowed them to move around freely.

Some of our neighbors got in the way. We removed them, but not one at a time.

Progress arrived and was given a front row seat. In this position, progress looked like progress. Fame made the disguise important, but infamous people did not understand this.

The elders disapproved of gambling and arranged time accordingly, which did not remove the element of chance, but may have reduced the hidden profits of the management, which may have been an even deeper secret, like an invisible blind man.

Some of us created an etiquette for the exchange of intentions, which included liberal interpretations of the circumstances under which the etiquette should be ignored. The most successful part of the etiquette placed Idaho between Washington and Montana and we left it there.

(Songs of our intentions floated,
and instrumentals required mud.)

(A friendlier form of isolation then,
or a destination all the way to possible?)

The soldiers followed orders only because there was no way to understand what was happening. The scribes failed to write that down. Later, the soldiers wrote that down and became scribes. They hadn’t realized the war was still the war. Their poems became more famous than the war. The war was still the war.

The neighbors tried many things that were doomed to failure. Some of them succeeded. We stopped calling them neighbors. We elected them to more distant offices (like the leftovers from the nut-seller’s cart).

If the new traffic signal said “Go,” we stopped, which proved to be a wise decision although we had to remove a great deal of detritus from the aggressive rear of the caravan.

We placed our understanding upon a line and broke it into unequal pieces. We didn’t argue about the inequality of the pieces, but exchanged places frequently, fondling the fob like a banker.

The fathers discussed “Yes” and “No” and came to conclusions they withheld from each other. The mothers discussed certainty uncertainly.

Our neighbors were placed in the farthest reaches of the empire. Often they decided there was another empire. We corrected them. We corrected them for a long time.

We appreciated wind tunnels. We decided to be amused at our amusements. We discovered contemporary fluting and placed it beneath the eaves.

(The dog-headed flowers barked the air awake.)

Finally we admitted we didn’t know
where we were going and changed bearings
to arrive with less wasted effort.

Innocence and forgetfulness.
We introduced them.

Some of the people we left behind
were still waiting when we arrived.

Rich Ives is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press; Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available from Newer York Press; Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press; and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available from What Books.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 12)

 

In these most anxious and somber political times, it is my honor to introduce the enormously relevant and genuinely fortifying creations we have gathered for this 12th issue of Posit.

When I introduced our last issue, the United States was in the midst of an “election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” [had] been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible.” Three months and a globe-rattling election later, that anxiety has proven to be nothing if not accurate. Many in the arts find ourselves questioning the relevance of our projects, and even our ultimate endeavors. In this moment when the (non-fake) news carries a toxicity which strikes fear into the hearts of so many, I believe the poetry and prose in this issue makes a solid case for the ability and even duty of writers everywhere to deliver the kind of news William Carlos Williams reminded us we “die miserably every day / for lack of.”

So I hope you will wrest your gaze from the ominous spectacle of our political moment to bolster your courage with the extraordinary literature in this issue — assured that, to quote from Andrew Cantrell’s The Gate is Open: “There is no speaking here not undertaken in defiance.”

To wit:

Sam Ace’s urgently tender love song to both the “fairy body in my bed” and our planet itself, from “north of the mountains” to “the fields spread below in a buoyancy of grains,” from “a tarry bit of hot sidewalk” to “the still bare woods” cradling “our nights scavenged in a sleep of mortars” while “others make slings for the dense matter of broken things;”

Andrew Cantrell’s deceptively simple declarations, the matter-of-fact intonations of which belie the profundity of their personal and political investigations into “how practice makes of movement another moment” able to “bear witness to an era of despair” and “construct the artwork as a figure of collective liberation;”

the delicate, suggestive mystery of Laton Carter’s prose poems, which, like the grace of the ballerina in his first piece, “[i]gnoring the straight lines of the boat and the physics of its ways . . . serves to uncontain what . . . is contained;”

Carol Ciavonne’s gorgeous riffs on Simone Weil’s notebooks, evoking Weil’s phenomenological approach to epistemology by unpacking how the physicality of writing echoes and illuminates our very existence, this “tempest of atoms/this wat’ry world,” the universal “shift into being from being other;”

Benjamin Hollander’s tragically posthumous parable about the slippery nature of art, memory, and communication — its bricolage of memoir, art criticism and sociological critique evoking echoes of Pynchon and Murakami, even as it revels in the inimitability of its own voice;

the elegant, elemental, and wry verse of Rich Ives, “dutiful and divided in the single intention of arriving” at such surprising and deeply satisfying revelations as “[t]he opposite of now is not always then” and “time is transparent. You cannot live there, but you can visit/constantly;”

the mystery and paradox of Philip Kobylarz’ densely potent declaratives, “an alternative the same as its opposite” in which “[g]ranite by another name is akin to granite” and “[t]he end is an end and the beginning is a false start towards making ends meet;”

Lori Anderson Moseman’s delicate, genre-defying response to disruption and mortality on the global as well as personal level, stitched together by the rich implications of darning (the collection’s title trope), with its suggestion of mending even while ruing the “nesting artifacts jettisoned” to spawn this “story [which] flaunts its missing gown;”

Trace Peterson’s inspiring monologue, manifesto, and cri de cœur, issuing from a narrative ‘I’ simmering with exultation, defiance, and irony, a self “invisible but . . . unavoidable,” “an ampersand and . . . a pronoun,” a presence which “belong[s] here, where I cannot not appear” in the course of an arrival which “is final as in completely incomplete;”

Jerome Sala’s self-sufficient, comically profound ode to ‘content’ in all of its elusive potency, “a textual form of meat product . . . nothing in itself / but the something out of which all is made;”

Dale Smith’s lyrical prose/verse memoir with its arrestingly beautiful meditations on “past selves pillowed by labor or expansive regimens of age” via stories which do “not focus — they spill” along “a pretended wilderness interiorized like dream energy” even while “hold[ing] in mind the certainty of erasure;”

Leanne Staples’ resonant verbal collage, “a bed of borrowed ease” in which “metaphor leaks of thingness . . . easing into selfness” “not waiting. / Or weighting. Without noun or renown;”

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino’s enigmatic and tantalizing excerpt from his flash fiction novel, Suicide by Language, enacting its own prescription that “[t]o be poetic is everything;”

and Laurie Stone’s masterful flash fictions, buzzing with the energy of unpredictable yet penetrating juxtapositions fueled by the lived intensity of imagined experience.

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Susan Lewis

positInkSpash131210.small

Welcome to the art of Posit 12!

Beth Dary’s sculpture reflect an intense and thoughtful response to the natural world and our relationship with it. Using a wide variety of materials, she draws attention to the delicacy and strength of barnacles and bubbles. Her installations of masses of small objects create artificial universes that mimic nature, asking us to consider life’s interconnectivity.

In the accomplished compositions of Steven De Frank, we see an exuberant embrace of life’s absurd, gut-wrenching, nutty beauty. His work seems to flow from id to paper or wood. The result are artworks that are funny and intense, accessible and mysterious. This is work that demands a second look.

Mie Kim’s paintings offer both a humorous commentary on Asian pop culture and a serious examination of painterly issues. She marries the two trains of thought effortlessly, producing riotous and sensually beautiful paintings that dance the line between abstraction and figuration. Her color palette is downright delicious.

Sandy Litchfield’s paintings play with the balance between urban and green space. She paints portraits of cities, with their tangle of buildings, roads, color and energy. At the same time she often portrays the relationship of urban growth to nature. The intertwining of natural and man-made forms creates an interesting conversation about space and place.

And Amy Pleasant’s spare and elegant work reflects her interest in the body and how it can be broken down into simplified shapes without losing its humanity. Her use of repetitive gesture and reduced palette focuses our attention exclusively on form. There is a deceptive simplicity to her work; deeper consideration reveals the subtlety of its form and content.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern

Rich Ives

An Exchange of Antecedents on the Darkling Plain

I had attended a relationship, but I looked like job-hunting. (Like a dog with worms––what he wants most weakens him.) I had visited the offering of uninstalled celebrity liver disease and tiny dancers. The white pig was there with his implied suit and his intentions that were not like whispering.

Come to me, castle of kerosene; one swift misery sniff and the flame folds the walls of this isolation as if a desert could explain waiting.

Come to me, blank glide of confidence, ignorant in the roost and falling with victory, as if you were to put a sign saying “chair” on its table and a piece of toast under its tongue.

There was a trail of showgirl fluff and red-winged poppies. Imagine the grandest majestic pride circled round in a tiny pink tutu. Gods have always been like that. They can stay dormant for centuries, spontaneous as glaciers. We know this, but wisdom doesn’t save you.

The government distribution centers needed assistance with molasses. It wasn’t merely seasonal. Mobile homes had been lost in poorly designed traffic circles. We couldn’t agree about this. One side had rifles, the other side were canaries. Not the same rifles you think. Not the canaries.

I had been deceived, of course, but somehow I felt as if it had been the right thing to do to myself.

Aubade

Somewhere there’s a little girl future that owns me. It’s a slavery I allow myself without realizing, like birth, and when the thought leaves, it doesn’t go back where it came from, the soot of passing coal trains kissing the new snow dark.

I had, at the time, been remembering the left leg of Charles Lindbergh while three bums began peeing in an arrogant politician’s fallen top hat, and I thought to myself, “Oh you delightful horse’s ass, you lovely stupid territorial bumpkin,” but I’m afraid I wasn’t as clear as the drugs.

It’s late now, but not too late. Dawn so weak the flashlight still wins, and I can’t tell where my body begins. The clock-hand points at the truth, which won’t hold still. There’s a rooster in the lilac bush, a feast of unanswered questions, cold breakfast soup.

And then an idea like me paid attention, complete moments at a time, swallowed a daring handful of easy targets. Toothpaste and beer and before that, olive trees.

And I remember when Rochester gathered the folds of my skirt and distributed equally among the peasants what he found there. Some people might say he was a man of ceremony, but I found him to be generous and burnt. He might have allowed me to marry myself if he’d lived to be a little taller.

A ravishment or two awaited me of course, but I didn’t feel like writing about them. The sky seemed to be coming closer when I thought about it.

There was something wrong about bees as well, but I had been poked and poked and fallen behind, and I had been shuffled into the mortal coil with a deeper understanding of the multifarious tragedies of escape, and I wasn’t in the mood for any more accidental openings. As a result, I had a hard time understanding the future as something I hadn’t been waiting for my entire life.

Another Ballad from the Hill Country

It’s possible to walk through a brick wall, but why should that matter? I can wake up another day, in which nothing has happened yet.

1) The sky isn’t falling. We’re rising to meet it.

Do what you wish with my angry words. I do not need them though they served me well. They kept the tenderness away when I was not ready to receive it.

2) Life is crooked and I’m barreling straight ahead.

3) Facts are not cruel. Understanding is.

Do come. It will ease the sarcasm nesting in my joints.

Can’t you sleep tonight? Your worry is about something important, only, now and anyway, death has already decided how best to honor you.

4) Wisdom is cheap, but a good lie is expensive.

You might think a sigh is short, but even the wind knows a lifetime is but a sigh.

5) It’s a legend and therefore must be true.

The heart knows no emotion but bleeding, and yet it gathers blood to bleed more. We rest our insistent needs upon this.

6) It used to be the frontier, and there are towns named after dead miners there and mines named after dead towns.

The stains on my robe are quite tasty. One of them is a rose. I wonder if you have arrived yet to feed it.

7) Only one of the towns is real, but no one knows which one. Everyone lives there.

Rich Ives is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon, is available from Silenced Press, a fiction chapbook, Sharpen, from Newer York Press and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a collection of poems, from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Competition for Fiction and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, will appear in 2015.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 6)

 

Welcome, reader, to the pleasures of Posit 6! And while we admit to loving the work we gather for every issue, this one is special, welcoming back five contributors from our first two issues: Michael Boughn, Rich Ives, Mary Kasimor, Sheila Murphy, and Mark Young. Naturally, we are also as excited as ever to welcome our newest contributors to the Posit family! This issue’s cover art by John Yoyogi Fortes is titled “Navigating the Slippery Slope,” which is exactly what all of the work in Posit 6 manages. As we hope you’ve come to expect, this issue contains stellar examples of contemporary verse that is as disciplined as it is innovative; multi-genre work, both collaborative and individual; prose poetry, and “dervish essays.” When we consider all of the literature gathered in this volume, we are amazed by the way all of these writers makes use of such a range of aesthetic strategies – from irony to gravity, emotion to ellipsis – to grapple with some of the most time-honored literary preoccupations: love, loss, mortality, the nature of existence, and the contradictions of contemporary society. Here, in a nutshell, is why you should read them all.

The precise yet organic prosodic architecture of Michael Boughn’s “City” echoes its subject in this new excerpt, in which mermaids must take refuge from their irreality in those eponymous collectivities, inviting us to consider “certain questions/with the stress on quest,” and their inevitable “figuratively speaking/loose ends.”

Cathleen Calbert’s light-heavy, sharp-edged humor startles us into recognizing such uncomfortable truths as that “all toddlers are Nazis,” and entertainingly warns of the dangers inherent in “myths: Greek, Christian, or “personal” regarding the meaning of death of chicken-fried steak.”

Emily Carr’s multi-genre mash-up begins with a visually stunning collage poem, by way of introduction to love poems whose roots are in the natural world, spinning like “a tornado of dickcissels.”

Dante Di Stefano keeps us reeling with his wild pony ride of a litany declaring “I’m the most stressed out / lazy person ever” “as wrong as two hotdogs in one bun,” desperately commanding us to “Recite me from memory like a prayer.”

Reminding us that “the travelcraft of poetry is the sound/of it,” David Giannini’s re-imaginings of our interior and exterior landscapes emit a serene musicality even as they startle us with their unforeseeable, indispensable insight, coaxing us to “open wide to unknowing” the hauntingly unknowable, such as “How asleep is awake?”

Rich Ives’ prose poems draw us in with “showgirl fluff and red-winged poppies” only to leave us with “a rooster in the lilac bush, and feast of unanswered questions” as well as a list poem teasing us with philosophical musings such as “Facts are not cruel. Understanding is” and “Wisdom is cheap, but a good lie is expensive.”

Mary Kasimor’s unmistakable ‘undressed impossible’ calls out its resemblance to “a naked turkey or a flower with all its petals torn off” but is on display here in full petal, full feather, and full glory, as fully haunting as “the icy etching of the sun.”

Corinne Lee juxtaposes her verse with haunting images of glass in poems so exquisite that they permit us to “meet lightness—and not shatter” and pose the timely question, “If everyone is the police, where do we survive?”

Kate Lutzner’s clean and potent elegies to love and loss resonate with the mystery of “voices ground to a hush,” exploring the times in all of our lives when “the scar rubs where the heart was” and “the equation says: break.”

Sheila Murphy’s spare lyrics offer a stark yet mysterious profundity in their accounts of our mortality, “this mid-range/found by living/with prospective knowing” framed by the character of our status before and after life, “advancing/and in wait.”

In his “dervish essays,” Robert Vivian offers lyrical incantations that carry us along intricate arrays of imagery to leave us spinning and elevated as “rooks, crows, and turkey vultures and smoke from distant fire.”

And finally, Mark Young’s poems delight us with juxtaposition, colliding observations such as that “Near death experiences dwarf all other categories” with “The cook was very personable, an exemplary professional. I was so excited. He came out in January” to startle us with his effortless and uncannily pleasurable verbal dope slaps.

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 6!

It’s my pleasure to gather the fine work of five artists working in a range of idioms and media.

Sabhad Adam’s funny and poignant paintings of adults sitting in baby carriages marry the absurd with the sentimental. These overgrown babies scowl at us with unwavering stares, provoking us to consider the politically subversive subtext of these unsettling works.

The mad, mad world of John Yoyogi Fortes is inhabited by ids and egos, color and movement. His paintings are funny, profound and visually gorgeous. The work is as direct and spontaneous as if there were a direct line from his brain to the canvas.

Gilbert Garcin photographs a highly structured and disciplined world in luscious black, white and infinite grey tones. Man stands alone in a Universe of his own making. Solemn and quiet, these photographs invite us to witness the archetypical dramas enacted by one man’s imagination.

The drawings of Carol Radsprecher bounce with barely contained energy. Hints of figuration and narrative tease at the stories lurking beneath these surfaces of vibrant color and suggestive form.

And Hinke Schreuders’ work depicts a skewed version of idealized women in vintage advertising. Veils of embroidery pop the work into an eerily resonant psychological third dimension.

Thank you for viewing!

Melissa Stern