Cal Freeman

Trumpeter Pen, Mean Black Eye

—for Kevin Cantwell

You find a Paper Mate with a chewed
cap on a scarred classroom desk
and think of how in “Epistle”

Kevin Cantwell tells the story
of taking a drive through Peach County
with Larry Levis and discussing

the mystical properties of the ink pen—
how it knows the right from the left hand;
how the poem is in the pen &

the pen is the tongue of the hand…
Which gets you thinking
about these latest remediations,

how nobody would say that the poem
is in the touchscreen and the cursor
is the tongue of the hand. How if the pen

swan swimming in dirty river water
turns its obsidian mask toward you
and your dog on your walk tonight, it is

neither curse nor blessing. If the pen
is a trumpeter, the clogged-spit-
valve honk means something akin to,

“Don’t fuck with me.”
If you see yourself as you are
in an avian creature’s dark eye—

bent pale neck, slouching walk,
leashed terrier doing the work
of scent and sense beyond your scant

abilities, you with your crooked nose
and ever-ringing ears—
and see a swan’s mask in black ink

on vellum, you might call it poetry,
realizing the terrible affront and tacit
threat your presence constitutes

for every seen and unseen creature
in this poisoned watershed.
Then you might be tempted

as the thicket mutes before you
and the rookery of starlings lifts off
to call the eye the leashed dog

of the mind, the pen the throat
of the village reprobate, your words
the troubled footfalls of the cursor.

My Father’s Namesakes

I ask my father why
he named his cat Boccaccio.
An owl perches on a five-story

gantry crane, and the island
belches holographic fire.
He speaks of interference

and diffraction. My father
speaks of the river’s black,
the black river like a bowling

ball with scratches of halogen,
moon, and starlight, and not
a river, he argues,

but a dredged-out creek
that pours into a river.
A willow’s hair floats

atop the current. My father
says my bitterness is a hologram
without a reference beam.

I tell him it’s a wonder
anyone Downriver speaks
given how much is only

partly answered, how little
is confessed, and how few
have the agency to hear

confessions. Boccaccio
scratches out a canto
on an impervious pane

of glass. My father reads
the interference pattern and
paws his snowy head.


I keep asking my father
if his cat Boccaccio is dead.
Even living cats have stone ears

that turn inward when they hunt.
The willow’s hair floats
atop the current, opaque,

brown water, I keep asking
my father if his cat Boccaccio
will paw at the water as it flows.

Refractions trouble deep
blanks in the riverbed.

I ask my father

why he named me for his father.
Boccaccio made the canto
out of dust and wind,

but it’s only an approximation
of our breaths. No one knows
what to measure or how;

a cat is its own prosodic lesson.
I ask my father
why he named me for his father.

It was an obvious name
for the scruffy little beast.

I ask my father why

he named me for his father.
Human it is to have compassion
on the unhappy,
he finally says.

Cal Freeman is the author of the book, Brother Of Leaving (Marick Press) and the pamphlet, Heard Among The Windbreak (Eyewear Publishing). His writing has appeared in many journals including New Orleans Review, Passages North, The Journal, Commonweal, Drunken Boat, and The Poetry Review. His second collection of poems, Fight Songs, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in Fall, 2017. He currently lives in Dearborn, MI and teaches at Oakland University.
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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.