Sarah Riggs

HEARD (crisis)


The vertical interior of the Americas
dreamt my spine, pulling through the eye
of each vertebra a tactile thread

—Liz Howard, “Infinite Citizen of
the Shaking Tent”


The world is in the book,
in your eyes, the rising
death toll

—Maged Zaher, “Words from
Bent Bones”


So they quipped and bickered and bit
it was like them, to bring the stars
underfoot and render the time a point
of contention rather than a beautiful
mingling of constantly translating spaces


We wished for our friends, the
circle of them, or pastry parallelogram,
only in this way, laying into the
fire, troubled or indecent, terribly our,
sickly, diseased, tremendously vulgar, in power


The flesh of the hour was red, was yellow,
was black, is red, is yellow, is black
to have to reach to the bone to
feel what we have in common—red,
yellow, black no puns, nor play, colors.


The horrendous charge of humanity
and one wished for Zeus to pull on the reigns
or back again to that hour, tripping
over the wires under the ocean—there is
a wire quand-même listening in there


If it was never for the hour
so ruthlessly prolonged, chirping there
in a sullen seat, politically electrically
charged: shapen this way and that
(hollow to the moon, you say you say)


What they wired in that space so there
a reckless freedom in the containment
gender and gender, race and gender,
all of race and race, swimming so
many dolphins (intelligent) in a sharked sea


Tore from them, making a space, making
spaces, if not for that, the serious
vote, being one point amid a tangle a
cluster a terrorized mass, and then
blinking, holding back and onto that thing


Reminds me of E, constantly making,
that place in the middle of a broach
which knows its needle, a woman in
power, just one, no not even, never
even, slipping down to a penisless space


Quand-même je voulais que tu écoutes
ton maître, maître d’E, pas pour
longtemps, mais quand-même, dans le
sacrifice de la mélancolie, les plaisirs
du langage abound (même si c’est ça)


Frustrating to encounter a hole in an
ought, when it’s really a sieve, and
J there smoking a cigarette all over
Brooklyn (not maimed, downtrodden yes, but
tending tenderly to the tinkering of the second)


The Rorsarch test (I can’t even spell it)
rocking on the balance of bedtime and life:
It was kind of precarious, the remainder
Of that hour, it’s like these words:
Hour, second, remainder &—her mountain


Theirs, theirs, she was forgetting again
and letting it sway to the side (I’m not
used to it). Night and pointing and
U girl (that was it). The freedoms
crashing together into one giant globe-wreck


Tearing at their hair, pulling at it,
by the braids, and the seams between
braids, on the scalps, in that place
carnivorous and deeply troubling.
(translated to the emergency room, said T)


How to market it, to make it, to
endure the twisting of the response into
a high end word slap. Paw upon paw
torn at the power of the weight shift.
A million women walking together out of step.


As if it were happening over there,
somewhere far away, knee deep in
water, the sickening reality of that,
however it was organized, the
grim determinant of the lesser known


Removal. And its fact so venomous
that removal of grievances was not
possible. Graves could not be dug
up and planted with clean soil, clean
earth. The world was sobbing (Is, will be)


Such the lick of time, into the textured
east, and a thousand veils falling over
a million women (not enough, not enough)
The collective scream not enough because
the screaming was at each other


A tender reserve of screams collected
in jars and presented in white galleries
and the hullabaloo of the fierce
peoples, the masks, the dresses on heads,
such material is fascinating for research


It was a wallop of fine rain
and they wintered in illusions and
polluted pelicans but the love was
it there (witness) such cantankerous
postcards and fine writing instruments
sent through the eye


Meanwhile writing and rewriting to A in prison
but could not summon the strength to send
the knowledge of not knowing the
conditions, horrifying that lack of power—
to infuse with love. Saudi Arabia here in my ear’s eye


There was the certainty T that
You are not in a safe space on the
subway, on the street, on the
telephone, anywhere even with your friends
your family even with (I am sorry)


Taking the temperature of the times
it comes out sub-degree zero
and yet the connections are very strong
very warm very trustworthy, worthy, thy
tie, in a y, or a t-shape, oh


Fermently caughtious or arraigned
the words M on your slip of an
eye which is really a paw (such is
laughter & the immensity by which
I meant that) so and so and so


On to something else, the alarm
goes off, the snooze is not infinite,
there are things to be awake to
query there and foreground the honest
(it is a zone) such that this


The remainder of what you had to say
there in the béchamel sauce in the
voting booth (so pointless if important)
they were looking at you or to you
just briefly for a second but it mattered


At that time she did ten paintings with lines
in black and purple (the sadness gaping
from the wounds) very straight
though not continuous, the lines telling
nothing, telling in a particular way


Dear M, in a meander, the threads
tangled, and you there free glimpsed in a sauna
how could it be otherwise, the smile,
and the thoughtfulness, everything vegan
the fists love and hate, and then yours, open


I heard what it was you meant, though not said
there were branches growing out of her head
and at this point, no leaves, but berries
and the occasional black squirrel pondering
there, and you asked, “how do I fly?”


Other than these memories, the present could
not contain us, and we were flying back
back, looking at the trauma dug into the
ground, looking at pictures of piles of
bodies (J wrote they were in the river)


Or there was a flow, and these notes
pittering in, an array of voices, some
violence, and they were at Standing Rock
(you vote with your feet) Another J
for instance was there (thank you for this)


Now there were facts (a flow of extremist
cabinet ministers) she could not pick
up that paper, even one piece of it,
without a large boulder weighing impossibly
there (and J was cutting the pieces)


If we could re-glue them together
there would be a treatise of whoever
was gluing, and that is all. Some glue,
and a subjectivity, carrying nations,
cultural belongings, not being able to untear


The flow came easily to them, bitten
out of boulders, the chewable kind
wand it was like that, hard, like
chewing on your own knuckles,
and there was blood, really, but elsewhere


What she was saying sort of made
sense, that’s what it was like,
an in and an out of a sort of,
the surest thing was to go to Vancouver
and to be charged and humbled


If it could be said if it could be written
all that thickness of research
flapped into a fold or nearly, under
that understood: all the women and
girls were saying it marching along together


Feeling along some sort of thread, a spiderwoman
of sorts, and then scrabbling back up the wing
wishing to rejoin the gutter, back and back,
Intzy intzy, wish wash up frame
no surrender, rain and sun, in a loop, crawling


Toppling into tea, a sort of 6-foot dormouse
greeting you nonsensically, though this
having the most of love, the craziness of
saying the crazy, Ethan the faun
inviting you to tea (and his house, torn)


If your friends were to freeze mid-step
their teeth bared, there wasn’t time
to pet their cool metal backs, you had
to go toward the frozen heart of things
(yes the word war is appropriate)


And not wrench it out, somehow
Love would have to win but the ending
of the story not known, and melting
ice apparently not the right metaphor
& what if there were not heart at the core


Rewriting histories very very quickly
to achieve a different ending
(such was not in the future but present
now and at this second for instance)
That’s what G was saying about love


We could have heard but for
our ears, covered in a sort of
political sauce, to be written by
distant peoples also motivated
by some basic needs (we had forgotten to ask)


Sorry, and the word not remotely enough.
Apology. Not remotely enough.
Remotely. That was the thing.
We had forgotten again. The western world
everywhere, in remote streams, the tongues of frogs


Taught at the rim of the last sought edges
into a meager determinant of beauty
wildlife caught in the mesh of goodness
(to preserve) and the words displanted
because of the rage of dreams


And this is nothing new, has been true
all along. The trick to terrorism
how it grows out of anger, and it is
that anger needing to be addressed,
not the terrorism. Not told slant


The slope of the slant very strong now
and a feeling of catapulting collectively
and being next to people very opposite
and yet not because very human
yet the mood very angry and so


The wind through the wind of it
Earth you could not touch, violence
you did not have to endure: the way
power enters the psyche and tries to
take control (the victories, victories)


And if she was held back, could they still
be friends, the woman with the beautiful
scarves, one wrapped around her head, asked
and then to clarify, explained that if
she were held back, could we still be friends


Poignant and remarked, fistfuls of rampant
lines, it was you, and it was you, down there
in a rushing, the bodies and the bones
(just words there in the schoolbooks)
How were we to mind the gap?


Etel and Babia, alive at the moment of words,
hovering in the love that inflects their
bodies, words connected to body, and we
a constellation, held in the night, even after
as the conniving ministers appointed day by day


Objects embued with a who-ness
among them a sea otter, a raven-eagle,
a wolf, a whale. The supernatural
helpers so needed “everything must change”
Already one—the better of evils (drones)


Even in the rain, they were, and how
the inversion sudden and strong, who
the giant pandas waiting there, wallowing
in an air infused with rainbows and pollution
a thing in this place, to the hour


A tossed vote (wasn’t sure who) and the
consequences oily, weighted by genocide
some victories, in North Carolina and
North Dakota, protesting helping,
necessary, and then torn, into that


The past of a paw, into that honey
a trap or an infused bill
frozen and dethawing the articles
of faith, who had heard of tie
sketched that skin so as to break


How to remainder, the cars flitting,
the planes one after another, edging
off experience, the whiteness, what
wash and tame zone, can we just
drop that word white now and let it go


Somewhere in the annals, more or less
held there, a sense of explosion
and capture, it was not possible
to render otherwise: the doors in—
the doors would have to open and let go


for some Vancouver poets I met

Sarah Riggs is a writer and artist, born in New York where she is now based, after having spent over a decade in Paris. Before directing Six Lives: A Cinepoem, she produced The Tangier 8 at the Cinémathèque de Tanger in Morocco, which was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and the Tate Modern Museum among other international venues. She is the author of five books of poetry in English: Waterwork (Chax, 2007), Chain of Minuscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling (Reality Street, 2007), 60 Textos (Ugly Duckling, 2010), Autobiography of Envelopes (Burning Deck, 2012), and Pomme & Granite (1913 Press, 2015) which won a 1913 poetry prize. She is the director of Tamaas, and a member of bilingual poetry association Double Change. She has also translated and co-translated six books of contemporary French poetry into English, including most recently Oscarine Bosquet’s Present Participle (La Presse).

Editors’ Notes (Posit 14)

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

So don’t miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Susan Lewis


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 14!

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern