Stephanie Berger

Before the Cold Bite of a Rattler

Sometimes, like a spoiled child, she would rot
from the inside. The wind, offering nothing
but a silent treatment of the drapes, the sun
& copper earth. She walked across the lava
with a familiar rhythm, finally snapping, like
a discharged soldier walking with a cane when
he no longer needs one. More than a mystery,
she was a mood, a ring on her most important finger,
symbolizing nothing. They say a good symbol
is the greatest argument & yet the value
of a trope is indeterminate. The value of a lie
is that you are a lie. The glaciers & ice caps
you think you understand until they are melted
down to a woman. Melt a women & you lose
the laurels which disguise your baldness. Using
his mouth as your own is the most difficult. The
ethereal chasing the unspeakable. Prairie dogs
hiding in foxholes. Pressing charges like linens.
The end isn’t the point & yet it is indispensable.  

My That Was Fine & Then She Died

The pain I feel now is more sophisticated
than that old pain. If it burns, it burns up.
It is paper. The little girl in my dream & her skirt
is a lark. It can’t even cover the check!
In default of wealth, one must have a raison d’être.
Is it too soon to say that I love you? Too soon
to know much. How do I find out?
Many years together in a bed
growing further. I need a lark
upon which I may focus my obsession.
Wind chimes alight on the shoulders of sirens
Calling from the beach of my soul
Did you fuck me in the ass last night?
My memories are so foggy. I have no one to tell
of my drunkenness, despair & the joy
pressed out of me, cold as an olive.
I don’t care to watch you perform
some enthusiasm. My performance is
a habit. I just miss you like a needle
misses the thread, the vein, I missed
the vein and died. I miss you like death
misses the unknown. Remember the
possibilities? Plagiarism is a collaboration,
the pictures in the frames fakes.
You can picture the frame, but what
does it contain? I don’t think we ever
know the person we live with.
I have loved the person I love
so much every single time but I can
tell you what I loved most about
Nathan was that he forgave me.
How do I create a form so wonderful
it need not contain a thing
& you will forgive me? I miss you father, I
miss my friends. I close half my eyes,
so you don’t fall in. Like gravity,
there is nothing I can do about it.
I can’t deny my girlhood because
a hood is good a way to cover
one’s shame, oneself from the rain.
I want to look upon thee with the honesty
of an eye & never the hood around it.
The darkness creeps in along the edge
of my dream, allowing the stars to
shine. I want to take a picture of the sky,
but it is night. I like it when your
imagination comes out to play, babe, my
peppermint angel, when you asked me what
my Rome was like, that sleepy little hamlet.
I am no clown, I am perfection. Say it. My body
is American, strong, violent & full
of limitless potential & Poetry
can be anything, the pages of my
girlhood left blank, it can be so beautiful
if you’re not careful.

Stephanie Berger is a poet, performance artist, event producer, and entrepreneur. She is the President & CEO of The Poetry Society of New York and is the co-creator of The Poetry Brothel, The New York City Poetry Festival, and The Typewriter Project. She has published two chapbooks, In The Madame’s Hat Box (Dancing Girl Press, 2011) and The Grey Bird (Coconut Books, 2014). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, Hyperallergic, Sixth Finch, Prelude, The Volta, H_NGM_N, and other journals. Other honors include a 2015 &NOW Writing Award and an artist grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Stephanie earned a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Film at the University of Southern California, received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the New School, and has taught in the English Departments at Pace University and Berkeley College.

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