Cathleen Calbert

Deranged Chicken

I knew I must be mistaken,
but that’s the way I processed

the label. Well, some things
are wrong, but you still think them, right?

“Slow Children” isn’t a description
of dumb ones. I mean, “intellectually

challenged.” “Caution Children”
isn’t a directive to lecture sixth-graders:

Listen, kids, don’t smoke crack.
And if you won’t wash your hands,

liebchen, you’ll sicken, then die.
Salmonella. Synthetic hormones.

How I worry over chicken.
Or is it beef? Swordfish, I know:

toxins and mercury. Coffee:
something bad and something good.

When I was twenty-three,
this three-year-old told me

I was off my rocker to wear my hair
in “piggy tails.” All toddlers are Nazis.

What would it take to haul me away?
Not much, brother.

Say I walked bare-chested
across the quad. If I were a man,

this would be odd, but I’m a lady
and sadly lack a baby at suck.

How ’bout that chick
who breastfed her kitten on a flight to Berlin?

Talk about nuts! So what if I think
“worth noting” is “worth nothing”?

I’m not stealing away schoolchildren
like a Celtic fairy in an early Yeats poem.

I’m not free-range, not running amok,
not much like a chicken with its . . .

Let’s just say I know enough
to keep myself in check.

Although shocked, I’m not going
to scream for the cops

at the words dancing before my eyes:
Baby         Back          Ribs.

Thirteen Ways to Love an Iguana


Guess what I’m making, says Puppet.
Ape stew? asks Meringue.
Iguana pie. It’s for you.
Ape stew! Ape stew!
Iguana cries.


Meringue weeps herself soggy. She dissolves into a small circle of foam on the red and white tablecloth.
Puppet smokes a final cigarette.
Damn Iguana, Puppet says. Worse than that snake in the garden.


Iguana is a blue lizard.
Puppet is pulled by strings.
Meringue dreams of being whipped cream.


To love an iguana is to love the lizard in the glands of your neck, says Meringue.
Puppet tilts his head to the left: the sign for sadness. Glands? Puppet says.


Iguana says, Remember when we met in the jungles of Brazil and you said I was a lovely dream of forgetting?
I remember everything,
says Puppet.
Life’s like that, isn’t it, says Iguana.
On the table sits Meringue, waiting.


What looks like ice cream? Is made from egg whites? Tastes like burned rubber? asks Puppet.
Iguana, says Meringue.


Meringue is commonly atop a pie: lemon or tangerine.
Iguana is not a blackbird.
I am no one’s Puppet.


Iguana skips into the forest green. Goodbye, Mother, goodbye, Iguana calls.
You’re not a little girl, Puppet yells. You are a blue lizard.
Mama, don’t beat me! Iguana cries. She drops her present, a bowl filled with Meringue, for her ravenous


Meringue may be soft, firm, or extra-firm. You can beat her into stiff peaks, stiffer peaks, then, ironically, back into
               softness. In this way, she’s like talking Puppets or Iguana casseroles.


I don’t like absurd stories, Puppet, Iguana says. Absurdity is just another word for nothing left to lose.
That’s freedom,
Meringue says. She’s getting the ends of her hair singed.
Please pour me more of that surrealistic tea, says Meringue. It’s delicious.


What’s the difference between stories and poetry? Meringue asks Puppet.
Iguana, Puppet says.
Between surrealism and realism?
Puppet says. It’s always Iguana.


Everyone wants to have “oral sex.”
Iguana is fit for the trick and flicks his blue tongue over Puppet’s body. But there’s no hole, no opening.
That feels great, Puppet says, her eyes open wide.
Then it’s Iguana’s turn.
Puppet thinks lizard tastes like eels mixed with raspberries, a salmon sandwich, a wet dream.
Exhausted, they place Meringue on their faces and go to sleep.


Everyone wants to fall in love.
Puppet cuts his own strings.
Iguana jumps into a volcano.
Only Meringue remains on the table, trembling.

Hitherto Undisclosed Categories of Unfortunate Demise

LONDON (AP) 2011—Coroner Suzanne Greenaway gave a verdict of “death by misadventure” . . .

Misalignment of tires or chakras
Misalliance with a door-to-door salesman
Misapplication of mathematical principles
Misapprehension of either time or place
Misappropriation of others’ husbands
Miscellany from the eighteenth century
Mischance—as in gaming or cakes
Misconduct of an extreme nature
Miscreants or other malingering malefactors of maledictions
Misdiagnosis by medical doctors or so-called “doctors of philosophy”
Mishap (happens all the time)
Misjudgment regarding heights, helium, or heavyweights
Mislabeling that leads to improper dosage or internet dating
Misplacement of one’s priorities
Misrule, the lord of
Missed chances (don’t get me started)
Miss Havisham
Missiles, Cuban or any other kind
Missives hidden under rugs or delivered
Miss, Swiss
mistake—for that is human nature
Mister Tingles
Mistletoe (see The Pain of Love)
Mistranslation from the French
Mistreatment of whales or women at SeaWorld
Mistress (between “mister” and “mattress”)
Mistrial and just desserts
Mistrust of one’s own heartbeat
Misty (in Irish songs or of the eyes)
Misunderstanding between friends (aka amusing adversaries)
Misusage (see: pet endearments)
Mysterious circumstances
Mystery novel (literary absorption)
Mystical crystals
Mystic, Connecticut
Myths: Greek, Christian, or “personal” regarding the meaning of death or chicken-fried steak

Cathleen Calbert’s poetry and prose have appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Paris Review. She has published three books of poems: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, and Sleeping with a Famous Poet. Her fourth, The Afflicted Girls, is forthcoming from Little Red Tree. She has been awarded The Nation Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Mary Tucker Thorp Award from Rhode Island College, where she is a Professor of English.

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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.