Rob Cook

Shadow Poem

Holding the ground together,
my shadow despises me.

Its pain causes a symptom
of sinkholes when I walk between
its bottomless houses.

It makes every winter longer
by one hallway hidden among the evergreens.

My current shadow,
made from all my previous shadows,
wants me alone
inside its damnation.

I’ve come to understand
the wind is just my shadow
moving its weapons from tree to tree.

I can listen for its baritone footsteps
when I run out of good things
to say to myself,
the good things that keep a person alive.

“Oblivion can be measured
by the depth of a single shadow,”
I told the one that belonged
in its place behind my back.

It blames me
for its irreversible darkness.
It steals my few cups of strength.
It makes the face of a failing liver and never changes.
It grows its food from sleep
that never makes it to the Earth.

My shadow, always taller than me,
flaunts its sadness
because it is not admired
by the happier, more gifted shadows.

It leads me through its hallways,
past the final, cringing bodies of sunlight
until I fall, like something
that never existed, into the thoughts
of its raging dark puddles.

The Soulmate Who Lives Only in my Sleep

I had to give up all knowledge of time passing to find my bedroom again. Then there was just a blinking traffic light that sang to a girl frightened by the next room’s whispered lovemaking. She screamed because I didn’t know how to stop anyone.

“Why does your room keep touching me,” she sobbed.

I dismantled the days in my shopping channel hallucinations — maybe the fossils of video tape are lies told by those who vanished there.

And now I peel the skin off a picnic table. It says “God loves Carianne” before it fades to a half-convincing shyness. I write over its wooden winter: “I will not love. I will not love. I will not love.” And that word with none of its original immortality.

The frightened girl stays in the middle of my sleep where we chop the light into many children. Following the flow of her loosened hair, I arrive only at the wrong mornings. I spend the days mapping what I left behind, and it takes every degree of body temperature, every way of looking at the things she said to me that meant nothing.

I try not to love the girl who lives in my sleep — she has no hands, no mouth, no skin, nothing that can be felt from anywhere. I don’t know her name, though I carry her across the same bed always.

“It’s not a dream,” I tell her.

But she still can’t feel me licking the infant monoliths from her blurred pubis where something might still be sad or looking for us. I tell her that every shadow I ever made required all my concentration, and that I fell forever inside those holes to the hells of Hackettstown.

She hears nothing, not even the birds unraveling my sleep, its little clump of clothing where it’s possible my shirt still breathes heavier than hers. I ask if the windows record our feelings and then leave a kiss on her neck, but it does not survive.

She dampens her morning cigarettes, each somehow a child that will never recognize the way a window’s emptiness advances while the trees stay the same.

Stealing the day’s ration of space from a dandelion, she tapes her body to the bed again.

We do not advance to the same minute together.

Rob Cook lives in New York City’s East Village. His most recent books are Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press, 2013) and The Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014) and his work has appeared or will appear in Hotel Amerika, Birmingham Poetry Review, Caliban, Epiphany, Verse, The Laurel Review, Chattahoochee Review, American Journal of Poetry, Redactions, Phantom Drift, The Antioch Review, etc. He is currently working on a biography of Uli Jon Roth and a collection of poems tentatively titled either The War on Little Things or Voyage to the Middle of the Dark Summer.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 13)


Spring may be imminent, but, as will likely be the case for some time to come, this issue of Posit arrives in less-than-optimistic times. However, once again, the work in this issue has the potential to address, and even salve, our pervasive distress, in ways that are no less satisfying for being indirect. Much of the art in this issue is about making — and all of it makes the case for the value of its having been made. Which is to say, for the value of art itself — not as luxury, as the current US regime might have it — but as emotional, intellectual necessity. One facet of which is its uncanny capacity to speak to situations that did not exist when it was created. Although the poetry and prose in this issue was written before the advent of the current political crisis, many of these pieces find a way to speak to it. Thus, that “we have somehow, / in haste and hubris, walked / into a deep night” is, unfortunately, incontestable (Matthew Burns, The Border). As is the fact that “even sanity ain’t sane today” (Anselm Berrigan, Degrets). Or that we are asked to believe that “once spoken, every word is true, even / all the words yoked to great chains of lies” (Gregory Crosby, The Marquis of Sad).

Happily, the works in this issue also have “a harmony that makes us forget the incontestable” (Dennis Barone, Vast Oculus). For one thing, we are reminded “not to fear the truth, to understand the neighbor, the houses, and this land” (Vast Oculus). And we are offered the grave and ethereal beauty of G.C. Waldrep’s “root & its entourage / ark-in-the-forest, / zither-lit & -strung” (first person). We are exhorted, with ringing, if enigmatic, energy, to “substitute optimistically!” (Rae Armantrout, Going Somewhere). Which I take the liberty of interpreting, at least in part, as an injunction to continue making, and imbibing, the arts, including:

Rae Armantrout’s tantalizing chains of Delphic utterances, guiding our gaze in “the fullness of time” from the spare beauty of the resonant particulars to the universes coiled within them, bringing to mind Bashō, W. C. Williams, Hansel and Gretel, and the inspiriting newborn whose “just opened eyes / see we can’t see what;”

Dennis Barone’s Vast Oculus, opening its generous aperture from the tangible familiar to “another world . . . beyond the armchair — like the point of a rapier” in prose that captures the ultimate essence of poetry, “leap[ing] from the enormous weight” of reality to “follow ideas without bodies;”

The urgent yet playful poetics of Anselm Berrigan’s Pregrets, Degrets, and Regrets, which may not expect “fragment bump” but delivers that and more, “revers[ing] the outer corners until specific arrival” of something very much like revelation “mandates itself / into existence” despite the possibility that there may be “no time for poems / with all this e-sociology poised to bite in disparate / need of absolute paragons;”

Matthew Burns’ lithe and slender verse columns exploring absence and corporeality, boundaries and trajectories, hope and despair: “zero / being nothing / but, like / the past: / still there / and affecting” as these spare and melancholy verses;

James Capozzi’s eerily relevant evocations of the demise of the mighty, from Nimrod, “basted by the city’s voice” to the conquistadores, having lost the nerve to defend their “sham heaven” in the face of the “troubling questions” posed by the earth they have just torched;

Rob Cook’s sharp yet lyrical elegies to the existential divide between self and other, be they one’s own shadow or the companion of one’s dreams, until even “the wind is just my shadow / moving its weapons from tree to tree;”

Gregory Crosby’s aphoristic verses masterfully evoking the pathos and humor of existence in which “[a]ll this death [is] another sticky note: Live!” in a universe “so / magnanimous that it breaks your heart in two;”

Julia Leverone’s exploration of the paradoxical interdependence of creation and destruction, adhesion and repulsion, as voiced by an unregretful Medusa hoping “never to return to the beforehand” and a lover observing the “force of keeping / together against pulling away;”

Caolan Madden’s penetrating exploration of isolation, “[t]he silence, the league of witches . . . that unclaimed feeling,” along with the ambivalence of a mother who doesn’t “want to grow up I want to spoil” rather than “fold . . . up her I” “when [the baby] made [her] shape known;”

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s prose poems from Leafmold, an inventory of poetic makings, including dogs and doctors, hawks and herons, history and science, “[i]naccuacies and errata smuggled via alternate versions of this weird life” brilliantly assembled, not “to deliver something heinous . . . but a text like a free state, a paregoric of the brain;”

Alina Stefanescu’s high-octane prose pieces expanding from a sense of lived experience (insomnia, scars, selfies) to wider implications in “this era of anodyne-paradigms pocked upon our model houses” where “a promise might be less than an omen as a toothache is less than a broken jar as a head circles the room without one single landing strip in sight;”

and G.C. Waldrep’s elegant, emotionally charged jewels of melodic and depictive compression, “lobed with the literal,” in which “the dream sweeps / through, & puts music away–,” evoking worlds in each parsed and potent word — luminous worlds in which meaning and music are not only married, but inseparable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the Posit team. Carol Ciavonne is an accomplished poet, teacher, editor, and past contributor, who promises to bring discernment, dedication, and generosity to her work as Associate Editor. We are delighted and grateful to welcome her aboard.

With thanks to you, our readers, for being here.
Susan Lewis


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 13!

Nathan Brujis makes lyrical and luscious abstract paintings, loosely based on nature and autobiographical experience. Working in a rich palette of saturated colors, he weaves ribbons of form in, under, over, and around one another. These canvases hint at abstract narratives while always retaining their joyful exploration of the painting process.

The almost ritualistic patternings of Jeanne Heifetz’s drawings are hypnotic. They seem to meander across the page, yet there is always an underlying logic to the journey of her lines. Using a visual ordering system based on the branching of natural structures, her work investigates the organic growth of form and the movement of marks on paper.

Eva Kwong’s miraculous sculptures exist somewhere between the natural and fabricated worlds. Drawing upon her interest in the spiritual and visual interconnectedness of the universe, she creates beautiful objects that manage to make reference to many different realities simultaneously. Her animated sculptures delight the eye while defying categorization.

The sculptures of Greely Myatt build upon the notion of “transformation.” His impeccably crafted found and fabricated mixed-media sculptures are funny and provocative, playing with artistic and social conventions in an amusing and elegant manner. Myatt references everything from rural southern culture to contemporary art, creating both installation and intimate scale works that welcome the viewer in, with a wink and a nod.

And Brian Sargent’s deep dive photographic investigations into light and the landscape capture an eerie mood. The sky seems on the verge of dusk, the light fading… or is it about to dawn? They are full of mystery and quietude. The occasional flash of a silhouetted figure, a ghost or a vision? The choice is yours.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern

Rob Cook


The deer live in my mother’s house.
They sing to the shivering television.
(Really a window attacked by rain.)

of me.

(What my mother calls the rain when it’s tired outside.)

I lure my unfed clothes down the hallway
past the cold-blooded

I call
“Deer Run.”


I was a deer when I was wrong
and that is all I’m able to figure out.

I will never know where they plant the stolen houses
or if the rain in each room
is enough to eat.

I’m eighteen years old, though,
and weigh eighty-seven pounds.

A boy stranded
on the always aroused television
tries to warn me:

vanish as far as
the room whose shadows need
to be fed,
but do not tell anyone
about our emptiness.

When I look,
it’s just the window,


to the same emptiness,

where each rain drop hides
a fawn
and its imaginary stairwells
that lead to a minute’s

bird crumb

and the holes where I save
the noise of even smaller bodies:

the screams where I went
for the clothes
my mother wore.

The deer do not follow me into my sleep.
The deer do not soften the walls when they wander.
The deer do not live in my mother’s house.

Nano-Surveillance Myths


That moment when nobody speaks
the city vanishes
and comes back with one less
name meant to hide
someone, one less

apartment tower standing inside a pigeon
whose children mark the tar-black window
while its wolves go dead.


A pitchfork shelter
where God

from the hitlers of rain

and the man nobody likes
who keeps asking:

Who hung a picture of the city over the city.
Who hung a picture of the silence over the silence.


A rattlesnake’s firmament
the noise God makes when he shatters.

Not stars in the night sky,
but cameras harvested
by a shadow that belonged nowhere
on the ossuary wall.


Was that one of the clouds I heard behind the mirror?

“We are protected by the information
passed along by trees,” my father says

from the logarithms of a heliotrope when it loses the rain.


There were never any birds,
only depraved children
that could be suggested

from the mosquito blood-counts,
the scalps of light
whose hepatic machines

clenched like leaves
on the ground when it failed.
And the children didn’t chirp—

only the leaves chirped
where any machine
could survive its belief-grade

shrike embryos, the spleen
and its unwashed flowers
the moment they began to shiver.

The Sicknesses Between March and April

In my apartment I felt the hiss of a radiator tickling the dampness of my shirt. The bedroom whispered with dust caught in live traps, wind groping down the hallway carrying a map of someone else’s insomnia.

And because it called itself my friend, the fog was forced to leave. It sold itself as a tired form of laughter that accompanied a televised inebriation.

A week later drought arrived
with its anonymous dictators

and the room licked at my sweat until only the fear remained.

I could feel every sore on my bed,
having survived the season’s
autoimmune conditions.

And because water was illegal,
I drank from the trickle of a spider’s church bells.

The clock wasn’t afraid.

It lived, like everything, on wooden shards of sunlight.

My clothes gasped for flesh under the kitchen glare that watched over the stains and shoelaces thawing on the already forgotten floor where everything was lost:

boulders of crumb cake,

old flashlight beams,

eyes that could still see new days
named after nothing

before the laboratory printouts repeated how it was no longer known if the nurses who held each other inside the black sheets of my liver would survive.

And I insisted that the cries crowding that depleted animal would never frighten away the rest of my body and so far they haven’t. But something still trusts the light, false by now, itching at the swollen windows even when it causes my biopsy wound to stay awake for days inhabited by the same repeating tremor, the same bloodshot curtain scratching with its lace claws from the cringing of the fire escape.

Rob Cook is the author of many collections of poetry, most recently Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (The Bitter Oleander Press), Asking my Liver for Forgiveness (Rain Mountain Press) and The Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil Press). 

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