Vanessa Couto Johnson


Often you are that house. Lit on a rock. Or nest, crows’. Steadying my home.

On the look, out. For me, always left-handed when meat is involved, the knife.

If hands are a right, what is a privilege, that the desks are a given. Only then did we have replicated problems to solve.

You read twice as fast as I do eat the contents of a bowl. I am the fast eater, but when I read I tread into the holes of open letters.

I am living like the nomad who hasn’t packed yet. Things set out for animals.

Found art or drawn. If we blend the dichotomy with herbs, will it work or play. Help my strained tea.

You can print this as a landscape. As a portrait. Escape with an unauthorized use, machine’s dried spitting. It speaks what we told it to. We do not fear its office, its echo, its bellyful of blanks.


The clerk asked where we were going. She took our passport photos. You with a haircut.

Someone told your father your hair is speaking to me. A scissor-based séance, science-less phrenology and some scalps more obvious than others.

You have memorized my birthmarks. I have told you my ribs are weird but you have other beliefs. And that, good, is.

If there were a Hippocratic oaf, his clumsiness would be benign. Reel in the sic, correct prognosis. We have no need to meet this being.

I am the kind of person who spits into a tube, mails it, and gets back biological data. All before the FDA can block the company’s health risk assessments. My ancestry percents itself.

Continents, color-coded, wave to me. Make speculative print-outs, travel a font I like to reread.


Peace is thicker than unsweet tea. Potato salad is a soft gravel I put on a path of meat.

We calibrate. Your pulse within norms. I now pronounce. You refresh, a stasis in jeans.

Today, on the face of the world. Lightning slaps off the finger of giant Jesus ogling Rio.

Every statue is a sequestration. The season of sequins upon the carnal. Dance until a Wednesday.

Personally, Brazilian immigrant’s outcome, I have momentum. Hips perpetual.

This state is easy to trace. Catharsis is overrated so I trap my mouth. Find pelt.

The microcatfish candiru finds inlets, not outlets. The body is subject. Urethra upturned.

Find piece, believe in the cod and prey heartily. You did not like seeing a goat cooked with its head attached. Think with the delicate. Lyrics are a musical delicacy you taste while driving to rest-stop.


The perpendicular driver overlooks us, enters our lane with an inertial stamina. You calculate curves with the wheel and we make it.

I hardly braced in case. I am reminded how low my cortisol is. The heart is not a pound but an apothecary dispensing needs.

Pressure is a dotted line. Road or document. They will be adding a bike lane. Spoke and spoke. What if I wore a helmet in the convertible.

When a menu has mussels I am tempted. Your aphrodisiac is different, wobbly, with hot water in the process.

Twelve percent leg meat in the can of crab. You show me how to move the limbs of your ancient opener.

Drain, drain. A waiter calls you brother. My steak exists and is replaced with one most rare. Most people are not pleased unless there is blood in every organ.

Vanessa Couto Johnson’s chapbook Life of Francis was the winner of Gambling the Aisle’s 2014 Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Qwerty, The Destroyer, BORT Quarterly, Two Serious Ladies, and elsewhere. She currently teaches at Texas State University, where she earned her MFA.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 5)


Welcome to Posit 5!

In this issue we are proud to feature literary and visual work by many rising, as well as gloriously risen, stars. As ever, we offer a range of literary aesthetics and approaches, from excerpted book-length projects by Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton, Jane Lewty, and Deborah Poe, to short fiction by Luke Whisnant. This issue also showcases the poetic potential of the long prose line, put to innovative and distinctive use by Stephanie Anderson, Rob Cook, Kristina Marie Darling, Vanessa Couto Johnson, Bobbi Lurie, and Zach Savich.

We hope you enjoy:

Stephanie Anderson’s delightfully surreal and surprising Ditties, in which “everyone sits in the yo-yo park, staring at the buds,” and we are playfully invited to “look up the appendix” but warned not to “ride in the wrong direction”;

Marcia Arrieta’s gossamer constructions, at once contemplative, startling, and forlorn, in which “everything is dreadfully calm,” “deer come and graze on [her] bed,” and the narrator “often feel like an orphan”;

Rob Cook’s somber, foreboding poems in which he informs us of “the screams where I went / looking / for the clothes / my mother wore”;

Kristina Marie Darling’s wittily slant re-imaginings of nostalgic iconographies of femininity, charting their magical courses “from Iceland to Finland to anxious”;

Vanessa Couto Johnson’s wise wordplay delivered via statements that “think with the delicate,” awakening us to the mystery and ambiguity of our own existence, in which “the heart is not a pound but an apothecary dispensing needs”;

Jane Lewty’s “Spatio-Temporal [Re]Mix” of aural and visual referents amalgamated with precision and care into poems of musicality and provocative design, resonant with “a strange elation,/the skitter guilt of/achievement”;

Bobbi Lurie’s dense and powerful evocations of strength in the face of pain, shunning what is “fake as plastic shrubs” to reveal “how much the pursued is pursuant upon/a clause in the material fabric of a lie” with “the skill to slice whatever needs to”;

Nils Michals’ prose poems, teasing us with the contents of boxes: “an entire forest, petrified white, whereby the occasional breeze stirs the crowns” and something “unclaimed . . . is gifted to the Church in the name of a holy work that shall be unnamed”;

Deborah Poe’s quiet, serene “prouns:” elegant transformations of space to states of being we “don’t have to understand” although we are led to consider “[w]hat is lost when you ask why,” and assured that we “don’t have to connect dirt to language, But the histories cave right there”;

Zach Savich’s spare, starkly simple nuggets of imagist magic, demonstrating that “the things I like are the things that happen,” in other words, why “pleasure educates”;

Anne Waldman and Pamela Lawton’s feminist appropriation of classical oral tradition in which “women’s work is never shunned” and “the skies [keep] circling the/liberated hearth” where the female body is sung by its self and she/we can feel genuinely “welcome to the symposium”;

and Luke Whisnant’s post-apocalyptic flash fiction about a mandolin virtuoso in whose “music [resides] the anguished song of a headless doll and the rubato stagger of a cripple’s broken crutch.”

Thank you for reading!
Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 5!

Made from found and fabricated objects, Mari Andrews’ sculptures delicately dance the line between nature and nurture, form and object. Each piece suggests a multitude of possible references. At once open-ended and concrete, her works are bits of sculptural poetry.

Kevin Brisco’s series “Build” presents a world of young men at work with muscular energy, both literally and imagistically. The raw materials that his images are painted on – wood, tape, and sheetrock – interact with the subject matter in a way that comments on the process and the product of a creative life.

The fact that Marcus Leatherdale uses the English colonial name for the Indian sub-continent, “Bharat,” in the title of this stunning photographic essay gives more than a clue as to its intent. This reference to India’s past jives perfectly with these elegant and haunting portraits of his friends and neighbors, imbued as they are with such a feeling of timeless nostalgia.

Oriane Stender’s work plays with the imagery and the objects of our material world. Using US currency and found paper, she sews, weaves, and paints these sly commentaries on the cultural interplay of commerce and art, image and meaning.

And finally, the video artworks by Tim Tate, elegantly framed in handmade glass, conjure the bits and pieces of half-remembered dreams. Their inhabitants share a moment with us and then, poof — they’re gone.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern