Susan Charkes

System for Practicing Panic

Small prey animals such as some rodents…systematically practise panic retreats along established paths so that they know the location of every pebble. This means that in emergencies when noise is no consideration they can flee blindly at top speed.

—Jon Richfield, New Scientist

rule no 1 [don’t move the pebbles] freely*

rule no 2 if a pebble moves while practicing move it back if it rolls
away replace it with a pebble of similar size and shape if you can’t
find one start over

rule no 3 create a simple mnemonic to recall the number of steps between pebbles the size and shape of each such as plaid gives no quarter or mine is the holy piece or
baubles dear become you

rule no 4 if the pebbles get bigger stop practicing immediately proceed
to 10

5 dust flumes at the tips of broom straws make accurate hiding impossible

6 adopt aroma of freshly cut cucumber

7 define beachhead without using swivel descant or calypso


9 add 1: elude infinity

don’t move
don’t move
pebbles pebbles pebbles
the pebbles
don’t don’t
move move move move
the peb-
the peb-
don’t move the pebbles
don’t the peb-
don’t the move
pebbles don’t move the move pebbles don’t
do it you’re thinking of moving them aren’t you
if you move them you deserve everything you get
if you know if you know what’s good for you you won’t
move them no matter what happens
you can’t do it can you
can’t not move them
can’t just keep them where they are
gotta move them
have to put your personal stamp everywhere you go even if it’s just
a bunch of random pebbles
already deranged for you
try and
try and
leave them to their mystery
don’t move ]

from The Book of Unreachable Planets

Wordlessly, the planet orbits its moons.

Their bluish rubbery stems bear outlandishly heavy harbingers of doom. Although they double
over, their burden never touches the ground. Doom grows steadily until it ripens, splitting open
along one side. From its smile spill seeds of despair, each tantalizingly sweet; each inconsolable.

Gravity: not an issue.

All the shadows have been enslaved by a species existing only as light. These beings have
engineered elaborate shadow-making contraptions, whose actions to themselves seem important.
At night the shadows gather in secret and plot their revolt.

The atmosphere is composed of crystallized memory. All beings are in continuous physical
contact with the past. Some species grow elaborate feathery protuberances that enable them to
create melodies out of the complex juxtaposition of events and feelings. To erase the past it is
only necessary to break off a piece and consume it. Although to do so is considered a faux pas,
no one can remember why.

After everything was said that could be said, the planet was abandoned.

Water droplets hang around in low clouds just above the planet’s surface, seething with
resentment. Locomotion is a challenge, as the droplets take umbrage at being shoved aside. They
push back with a force equal to the square of the oncoming impulsion. A thin coating of
obeisance is the only effective surfactant.

It is nerve-wracking!

Things start out really well. They spew excitedly from fissures and immediately take on a unique
cellular structure that heads in the right direction. Soon, though, they get swallowed up in
muddles from which succulence struggles to escape. All the endings are obscured in an
oppressive jungle of possibilities, perhaps in a subduction zone.

They really do keep moving the goalposts.

Susan Charkes lives in southeastern PA where she is a freelance writer/editor and consultant. Her recent poetry has been published or is forthcoming in, among others, APIARY, Arsenic Lobster, Cleaver, Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 8)


Welcome, readers and viewers! We’re delighted to ring out the end of 2015 with the extraordinary poetry and prose we’ve gathered for this issue of Posit. It’s an honor to publish such a rich mixture of innovative verse, short fiction, and poetic prose by literary masters at all stages of their careers, to wit:

Doug Bolling’s Scalapino-esque “…words carried from a valley a stream a mountain / just to be there cherished, fondled” by gorgeous metaphors creating “a poem of unknowns / a Magritte refusing all margins;”

Susan Charkes’ wry compendia on Practicing Panic (“adopt aroma of freshly cut cucumber” and “elude infinity”) and Unreachable Planets such as the PLANET OF CONSTANT DOWNDRAFTS (“Gravity: not an issue”);

Norma Cole’s ferociously beautiful narrative fragments of a fraught nation kept together and apart by the ‘Surface Tension’ of an iconography of sentiment and violence, in which golden angels and grandchildren eating butterscotch sundaes give way to women sleeping on sidewalks, Halloween “or some / other masks beheading,” and “the mortars again;”

Christine Hamm’s magnetically surreal texts, in which “You said the antlers in the bucket were part of you, asked me if you should burn your necklace, the one with someone else’s name;”

Zeke Jarvis’s masterful short story about art, artifice, and free enterprise, Las Vegas style;

Halvard Johnson’s disturbing ode to The Art of Deference with its haunting last line, complemented by the resonant compression of 14 Interventions, in which “poem grenades,” like “old leaves,” “turn to / reservoirs of life;”

Carlos Lara’s virtuosic excerpt from Several Night, a “monologue of another destroyer” “ready for whatever’s next play” and populated by “numinous projectile clouds” as well as “music looping the dream archer of dreams;”

Anna Leahy’s “exacting forms” “pregnant / with possibility of motion” mirroring the beauty and menace of nature as well as “the spark of brazen imagination;”

Christina Mengert’s mind-meld with Spinoza, yielding remarkable hybrid philosophical/poetic ‘Definitions’ “by virtue of mental trampoline, / bouncing into idea as a consequence / of grace” via a collaborative “intelligence / conceived through something / more itself / than itself;”

Carol Shillibeer’s magnificent “loyalties to worlds, words and their pleasures…” posing the question, “What work has there ever been but perception?”

Danielle Susi’s brilliant juxtapositions, in which “Volume sleeps on my tongue today / because teeth can sometimes look / like pillows,” provoking us to wonder “When two sides of an abrasion stitch / back together, what do they say?”

and Derek Updegraff’s haunting and suggestive story Café, “about him and her. That’s all” although it somehow manages, in 350 words, to open itself to the far reaches of the universe.

As always, thank you for reading.

—Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


It is my pleasure to introduce another wonderful selection of painting, photography, sculpture, and video in this issue of Posit.

Meryl Meisler has been taking photos since she was a teenager, chronicling her youth in Long Island and young adulthood in NYC in the 70’s and 80’s. Her keen eye has captured moments that are funny, moving, and offer wonderful portraits of an era.

Helena Starcevic’s carved and fabricated sculptures reflect a distinctly modernist sensibility. Cool and stripped down to their essence, these are elegant objects. Working with a restrained palette, she conveys the beauty of the form, using the contrast between matte and shiny surfaces to allow light to caress the contours of her sculptures.

The haunting videos of Pierre St. Jacques delve deep into the psychological realm of human relationships. The Exploration of Dead Ends, from which we present an excerpt, as well as still photographs and video installations, is a beautiful portrait of a man caught in the endless cycles of his life. The result is visually stunning and deeply moving.

The sweeping gesture of Heather Wilcoxon’s hand can be seen in all of her energetic and evocative paintings. Strong and committed markings typify these works. Human and animal forms live harmoniously amidst swirls of color and form in compositions dreamily reminiscent of a life lived near the sea.

The sumi ink drawings of Katarina Wong are bold, thrilling and often a bit frightening. She brings us face to face with an Inferno of emotions that swirl and whirl across the page. Recognizable human and animal features emerge and then sink into the energetic darkness.

I hope you enjoy!

—Melissa Stern