Simeon Berry

Nix dreams of his death

in a kitchen underwritten
by cursive vanilla.

In the background,
the miniature TV

displays a pack
of ventriloquists

hooting mildly
as they take down

a gazelle.
The tall bodies

gather around him
in a muffled way,

making warm

of tobacco and wool.
But the world is

no longer the brown,
unthreatening theory

of an oboe. Without
the limitations

of his gaze, all
the cultural pleasures

become confused,

Torpid rappers
mumble among

bodkins and doublets,
and the atom smasher

in the garden maze
begins to get big ideas.

Nix landscapes the Grave of the Unknown Narrator

The point is to make it

He plants a border
of epistles, humming

a valedictory polka.
He wipes his brow.

More strata needed.
Less oleander in general.

He must admit he never
liked the Narrator. Not

much fun at parties.
Always wanting to

talk about the power
of folk dancing

and the capybara’s
sadness. Incapable

of serious distinctions
like the graceful

transition from golf
course to cemetery.

The turf is much
the same, but the holes

are handled differently.
He stands up and regards

the beige oblong
of turned earth.

However you lay
your body down,

the unreal estate
has its own demands.

Nix, Descending

As he climbs down
into The Query,

he carries only half
a sock and a fever
dream about pool—

a table full of dark orbs that sound
skeletal when they hit their opposite.

Night makes the chasm
into a scale model, a cubist
organ that’s been removed.

The wet karst has the shape
of every last building.

The abstract radiation from millions
of statues’s opiate stares. Not

everyone hates design like this.
But he was fashioned, made to

be swayed by sitcoms and the susurrus
of the studio audience. He feels guilty.

Men came here to
feed their brood,

to try not to lose
a hand or more.

Boys skulked in to swim with a nude,
sip illicit fizz from a can, and ask
something earnest and ignorant.

Act Three is him.
All the emptiness

gets now is a biped with no face
in the dark. The negative

cathedral grudgingly lights the way
down into the intended earth.


Artist’s Statement

These poems are from Nix, a book-length sequence which serves as the refracted biography of a doppelganger figure, a textual interloper drawn involuntarily into various genres and archetypes as it struggles with both narrative and gender instability. The book grew out of an attempt to set aside the primary materials of the self, and confront how we often fall in love with the linguistic environment around an idea, rather than the idea itself. “Nix” (i.e. nothing, nobody, negligible) is meant to complicate notions about originality, and make plain the shaky constructs of contemporary poetry.

Simeon Berry has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares, and won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant and a Career Chapter Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters. His work has appeared in Crazyhorse, AGNI, Colorado Review, Blackbird, DIAGRAM, The Iowa Review, American Letters & Commentary, and many other journals. His first book, Ampersand Revisited, won the 2013 National Poetry Series (Fence Books), and his second book, Monograph, won the 2014 National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press). He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 4)


Welcome to Posit 4!

We are delighted to bring you the poetry in this new issue, which assembles a range of poetic approaches to the deployment of razor-sharp vision reflecting our selves and our world(s) with unnerving power and ineffable magic. As always, the work in this issue comes from poets at all stages of their careers and a variety of aesthetic and geographical milieus. We hope you enjoy:

Kristin Abraham’s elliptical yet potent lyric investigations into the violently carved ‘wife-shaped face’ of American femininity as well as the asymmetrical “hog-thick tension” and “derivative violence” of our diode-logical relationships;

Simeon Berry’s wryly wrought encounters of Nix, a “biped without a face,” with the “negative/cathedral[s]” of our final inevitable “unreal estate,” nimbly transmogrifying sound puns to meaning puns with wit and grace;

Dana Curtis’s hallucinogenic psycho-documentaries with their “known lights . . . spiraling out . . . into [a] fog shrouded museum;”

Raymond Farr’s wonderfully threatening contemporary mythology, replete with Delphic Oracle;

Derek Graf’s ‘forest’ of prose blocs in which the silent and the voiced intertwine to re-imagine tropes as rich and strange as “the cold equations of hills and the cloven vandal of the moon;”

Carolyn Guinzio’s unsettling gaze reflecting our world in the hypnotic spin of a snake’s eye and complicating meaning via a counterpoint of interwoven narratives emitting implications of incantatory resonance;

Tim Kahl’s blunt and surprising vision, inviting us in from the numb comfort of our societal “avoid room” and guiding us “into position to receive the new settings from the old intelligence;”

Drew Kalbach’s “polycarbonate enhanced/enriched plastic” urban techno narratives, gleaming like “pure chemical reactions where no chemicals are found and nobody takes a picture to prove it;”

Jared Schickling’s mad constructions, “an epicurean trip thru quantum entanglement” conjuring up verbal parallels to the work of Jackson Pollock;

Marius Surleac’s collisions of punk rock with bucolic pastoralism, making us “lose our minds smoking pot made of sharp corn blades;”

Lewis Warsh’s deceptively relaxed and conversational lines snaking from the daily to the universal, the evident to the profound, with lingering resonance and masterful grace;

and Karen Zhou’s deft and haunting constructions, weaving us into her magical world of “nebular wild white,” “tattooed tulips” and “the impossibility of brûléed snow.”

As ever, thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


And welcome to the visual art in Posit 4!

ShinYeon Moon’s work explores the masks that people wear and the people beneath those masks — who we appear to be, and who we fear we are. Deeply psychological, Moon draws the inspiration for these haunting works from poetry, mythology, and her own life.

Gina Pearlin’s paintings are like bits of half-remembered dreams of a bygone era in an unnamed country. Despite their dreamlike quality, there’s a solidity about these pieces that plants them firmly in time and space. At once surreal and concrete, her vision reveals a world that is grim yet strangely beautiful, asking questions only the viewer can answer.

James Rauchman’s paintings draw us into a world of organic shape and form. Densely packed, the canvases often seem poised to burst open. They pulse with a life of their own, like biological specimens under a magnifying glass. At the same time, Rauchman is addressing formal ideas of figure and ground. The paintings dance back and forth between foreground and background, creating a lyrical tension which addresses central questions in contemporary painting.

With a wry sense of humor, Kevin Snipe’s work documents urban life and relationships between men and women. He uses the physicality of ceramics to work around, in, under, and through the visual narratives. These sculptures operate on both two and three dimensions, the visual narrative of the drawings reinforced by the sculpted forms. Snippets of dialogue float through these pieces, like conversations overheard on a subway.

And Laura Sharp Wilson’s work assembles forms that hark from many realms: under the sea, under a microscope, and in the sky. They appear as both decorative and highly structured scientific portraits of an alternative universe. Using vivid and beautiful color palettes combined with precise drawing, these paintings suggest multiple possibilities stemming from the natural and scientific worlds.


Melissa Stern