TJ Beitelman

Math and Science

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: preparations to turn one square block into a street bazaar. Orange cones. Folding tables. Port-a-potties. Police shoo the unfortunately parked. A stream of men who glare purpose-fully and stalk the block in some surely official capacity. They hiss into walkie-talkies. Don one or more version of three different kinds of ID badge. Conspicuously military is this linearity.

——lines intersect or else run parallel. Period.——

He sits on one end of the long table inside the café. Scribbling her math homework in a spiral notebook at the other end of the long table etc. sits a pretty co-ed.

——all the young people walk or sit so erect. Such clear elegant lines they make!——

The math exists to prove the existence of parallel universes. Or at the very least a world inside a world. It is said there is a statistically significant distinction between the males of our species and the females of our species. Namely: women see far more out of the corners of their eyes. Once he took this as an invitation to believe in infinite possibility. Even if she’s not looking she is. And she is and she is and so on. There’s another way to see it now.

——she’s not looking but she knows you are. Or else she’s just not looking period.——

These other potentials trail off to their respective vanishing points. The vendors open their carts. The smudged sky threatens to open itself. Later there will be electrified music and plastic cups of pissy beer. In a tucked away corner one young man in a crisp white untucked shirt will vomit mostly foam. Some time ago one poet wrote of some bird or another circling out and out from its handler until it couldn’t be seen or heard.

——I don’t remember the rest. Something something stones. Something something sleep. Something something slouching. Then eventually Bethlehem.——

Down the table etc. she solves for x and y and graphs it out along the squiggly perpendicular axes she’s drawn. He strains to see and not be seen. He fails on both fronts. She collects her things and without looking one way or another takes her infinite leave.

It was a double-helix for what it’s worth. Twisted strands.

What makes up all or any one of us.

Art in the Park

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: he planted twenty-three miles of plasticized orange in the winding Central Park of his own mind or body or else the simple disembodied history of him. It’s just buzzing. It’s just buzzing. You have to come here. It’s the sound. Kids and people. You have to come here. It’s the sound of it. Someone in the crowd said all that.

It was the middle of winter for all this orange. The sleet and freezing rain. The squirrels. What do they think. And the fat dachshunds decked out in sweater vests. The creaking the aching groans the orange things I made made. The way they swayed. What is a lie. The art that you make in orange for everyone to see is a kind of lie.

Once when he was a boy there was a question regarding his veracity. It was a very important question.

He told a story about the bag lady of his mind who had been cast off. Discarded. She toted her bags in the park and no one noticed her until the city took its toll of her and once and for all she was sent back to from whence she came. Ashes to ashes.

But that’s not what really happens to her. He cannot even recall all her potential ends:

Does she grow wings.
Is she an heiress. A prophet.
Midwestern beauty queen.
First female astrophysicist. Abstract Expressionist.
Mother Mary. Marilyn Monroe. Etc.
——yes and yes and yes.——
And yes.

——but remember this: the ducks don’t leave. They stay and swim through the winter slush. Propelled by the furious invisible churn they make of their own orange-webbed feet. Orange and orange everywhere around them in my mind. None of this is holy. None of this is holy. This is only art. Which is something but is not wholly important. I am just one in the eight millions. One in the eight millions. One man said in the city of my mind that what I had done to his park was as if I had squatted and shat in his yard. But he forgets my mind and all this orange belongs to me. Even the ducks. To me not him. Call to me dear. All this orange. It sighs. I am only waiting. Amen.

The Dream of Flight

This is the story of his life he drew up around himself: he was headed somewhere. Directly. In a machine. While all along the way other machines made a beautiful rubble of the cracked-slab manmade road.

Which is to say: they re-did the road.

While he was on it.

Which was necessary in a manner of speaking but not strictly necessary in the so-called Grander Scheme.

Indirectly necessary. Necessarily indirect. Etc.

Regardless. To pave the way over what was already smooth or smoothish needed to be made fully rough. This is called vision or revision, one.

A beaked machine bit rebar into smaller and smaller bits to build a very long row of nests. Unseen men in unseen moments had balanced chunks of gray rock like eggs or constellations in the crinkled irregular masses of wire. Nest after nest after nest in a rough corridor of nests.

Or else if not a corridor then at least a regular series of singular points on an otherwise infinite line.

Or not nests: galaxies. A galaxy of inanimate nests. Rough nest of inanimate galaxies. Etc. Startled smell of grasses seeps through the vent. Senses have senses. Etc.

Or not inanimate. Intimate.

——lord no. Trust me. Turn back. I know your aim: you think you want to go there. No you don’t.——


Machines have beaks and make ordered nests of broken metal bits and manmade rock. This all delights him in a way. It’s all he recalls at the end of the day. Nests zooming back away. Zoom is a word and crunch is and crinkle. So is bird. And fly. And fast. Etc.

Once he was headed somewhere only where he doesn’t remember. Instead he’s only here now where he conjures up an erroneous sensation: warm living meat of a small wild bird in his palm. A real imagined bird. Imagined real. And live.

Long I.

——I thought I told you…——

Calm at first. But for the fluttery tick-tick-tock of the wild mechanics at her core. Then in a flurry of her sleek imaginary wings she bursts away. The energy of the universe.


But then the energy of the universe is a constant. Which means it stays the same. Which means it stays just where it is. It doesn’t ever go. It doesn’t ever go away. Even though disorder grows——

——yes yes Love. I know:——————That’s the only law we know

TJ Beitelman is a writer and teacher living in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s published a novel, John the Revelator, and a collection of short fiction, Communion, as well as two collections of poetry: In Order to Form a More Perfect Union and Americana, all from Black Lawrence Press. His stories and poems have appeared widely in literary magazines, and he’s received fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. He currently directs the creative writing program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. He can be found online at

Editor’s Notes (Posit 10)

Welcome to summer, and with it, to our 10th issue!

While not what is most often referred to as “summer reading,” this issue’s poetry and prose is energetic, surprising, pleasurable, and above all, various. From Martine Bellen’s Delphic utterances to James Capozzi’s lush expansiveness; from Joe Pan’s virtuosic fecundity to the compressed insightfulness of Alec Hershman, Call Freeman, and Becka Mara McKay, the work aggregated in these pages gives rise to its own poetic chiarascuro, an emphatic energy of contrasts fed as well by the moving micro-fiction of Anthony Schneider, Randee Silv’s suggestive “wordslabs,” an excerpt from a new collaboration by Thomas Cook and Tyler Flynn Dorholt, and the accomplished poetics of TJ Beitelman, Brett Salsbury, and Patrick Williams. So here’s to the delights of summer, and of Posit 10:

T.J. Beitelman’s probings of the intersection of truth and creation, vanity and desire, futility and hope, exploring “the real imagined” and the “imagined real” in which “none of this is holy. This is only art”;

Martine Bellen’s spare and exquisite excerpt from , inspired by Brazilian jujitsu, invoking “the efficacious arc of hatching” the insight that “delusions are inexhaustible”;

the expansive richness of James Capozzi’s verses, grappling with the psychic implications of “film that is a litany of artifacts ragged behind the rest of our evolution” as well as the elusive notion of “our majesty” which “blows the petals that form us” whether it resides in “maps of the coast the length of the coast” or “the life and the sub-life”;

Thomas Cook’s and Tyler Flynn Dorholt’s masterful collaborative meditation on time, identity, and language, which “keep[s] breaking perfectly with commas into slight unknowns” in order to remind us that “no matter what, what is always the thing mattering,” which “is not news nor is news not us”;

Cal Freeman’s sure-footed gems of energy, imagination, and insight, in which, as the author tells “The Innocent” in the epistle addressed to her, “grace is the shape of light that isn’t cast”;

the range yet compression of Alec Hershman’s lyrics, which convey meditative melancholy, wry humor, and philosophical rumination by tapping a well of surprise in which “the megaphone’s a dunce-cap; the helicopter lands with a limp”;

Becka Mara McKay’s lyrical yet gently wry investigations of relationship and faith, in which the “heart is/a dropped bottle,” “sorrow sags,” and “God leaves unlatched//the shore of sleep”;

Joe Pan’s virtuosically individuated monologues on one love which is wistfully “awash in what [she] cannot keep/or keep private,” while another struggles with her own “humble fidelity to [her] infidel’s lovely bits & bargaining chips” such as the beloved’s “ol’ stigmata’d-mouth-by-unforgiving-knuckles exploitation show”;

The wry melancholy and deadpan humor of Brett Salsbury’s pitch-perfect timing, reminding us “how your dreams rearrange the day” until “eventually gravity takes its whole toll”;

Anthony Schneider’s poignant fiction about personal constriction as coping mechanism and abuse, ringing with the potency of what is left unsaid;

Randee Silv’s ‘wordslabs’ constructed from resonant declaratives colliding productively like “circuits of cascading autumn clouds,” their “inward attentions inexhaustible”;

and Patrick Williams’ elegies to memory and mortality, in which “the lake is dead as a dream” although “we are too unfixed” and “someone is calling, but really/who picks up the phone anymore?”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


And welcome to the visual art of Posit 10!

Alex Bunn’s photographs bedazzle and confound the viewer. Through his meticulous studio arrangements he creates temporary universes that leave us wondering at exactly what we are looking at. They are both delicious and decidedly creepy at the same time.

In Cynthia Carlson’s recent body of paintings, “Beyond the Rectangle,” we see a group of rigorously constructed, geometric compositions. Each painting is made of up many smaller canvases, combining to make compositions that inhabit the walls with architectural presence. The paintings are deeply and lushly painted: Carlson uses color to both harmonize and connect the compositions. Like jazz, they are syncopated and alive with energy.

Mary DeVincentis presents us with a world where darkness, both physical and psychological, is ever present. Beneath the cheerful colors and vigorous brushwork we see hints of the troubled life inside.

Carl Heyward creates mixed media works that are elegant and lyrical. With graceful gesture he mixes found and fabricated imagery to suggest visual short stories. Each work provides us with a bit of the narrative, leaving it up to the viewer to complete the story.

And Matt Nolen’s ceramic sculptures are richly layered with color, texture and meaning. Like surrealist narratives, they lead us along a dreamlike path where all interpretations are the rights ones.


Melissa Stern