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.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 6)


Welcome, reader, to the pleasures of Posit 6! And while we admit to loving the work we gather for every issue, this one is special, welcoming back five contributors from our first two issues: Michael Boughn, Rich Ives, Mary Kasimor, Sheila Murphy, and Mark Young. Naturally, we are also as excited as ever to welcome our newest contributors to the Posit family! This issue’s cover art by John Yoyogi Fortes is titled “Navigating the Slippery Slope,” which is exactly what all of the work in Posit 6 manages. As we hope you’ve come to expect, this issue contains stellar examples of contemporary verse that is as disciplined as it is innovative; multi-genre work, both collaborative and individual; prose poetry, and “dervish essays.” When we consider all of the literature gathered in this volume, we are amazed by the way all of these writers makes use of such a range of aesthetic strategies – from irony to gravity, emotion to ellipsis – to grapple with some of the most time-honored literary preoccupations: love, loss, mortality, the nature of existence, and the contradictions of contemporary society. Here, in a nutshell, is why you should read them all.

The precise yet organic prosodic architecture of Michael Boughn’s “City” echoes its subject in this new excerpt, in which mermaids must take refuge from their irreality in those eponymous collectivities, inviting us to consider “certain questions/with the stress on quest,” and their inevitable “figuratively speaking/loose ends.”

Cathleen Calbert’s light-heavy, sharp-edged humor startles us into recognizing such uncomfortable truths as that “all toddlers are Nazis,” and entertainingly warns of the dangers inherent in “myths: Greek, Christian, or “personal” regarding the meaning of death of chicken-fried steak.”

Emily Carr’s multi-genre mash-up begins with a visually stunning collage poem, by way of introduction to love poems whose roots are in the natural world, spinning like “a tornado of dickcissels.”

Dante Di Stefano keeps us reeling with his wild pony ride of a litany declaring “I’m the most stressed out / lazy person ever” “as wrong as two hotdogs in one bun,” desperately commanding us to “Recite me from memory like a prayer.”

Reminding us that “the travelcraft of poetry is the sound/of it,” David Giannini’s re-imaginings of our interior and exterior landscapes emit a serene musicality even as they startle us with their unforeseeable, indispensable insight, coaxing us to “open wide to unknowing” the hauntingly unknowable, such as “How asleep is awake?”

Rich Ives’ prose poems draw us in with “showgirl fluff and red-winged poppies” only to leave us with “a rooster in the lilac bush, and feast of unanswered questions” as well as a list poem teasing us with philosophical musings such as “Facts are not cruel. Understanding is” and “Wisdom is cheap, but a good lie is expensive.”

Mary Kasimor’s unmistakable ‘undressed impossible’ calls out its resemblance to “a naked turkey or a flower with all its petals torn off” but is on display here in full petal, full feather, and full glory, as fully haunting as “the icy etching of the sun.”

Corinne Lee juxtaposes her verse with haunting images of glass in poems so exquisite that they permit us to “meet lightness—and not shatter” and pose the timely question, “If everyone is the police, where do we survive?”

Kate Lutzner’s clean and potent elegies to love and loss resonate with the mystery of “voices ground to a hush,” exploring the times in all of our lives when “the scar rubs where the heart was” and “the equation says: break.”

Sheila Murphy’s spare lyrics offer a stark yet mysterious profundity in their accounts of our mortality, “this mid-range/found by living/with prospective knowing” framed by the character of our status before and after life, “advancing/and in wait.”

In his “dervish essays,” Robert Vivian offers lyrical incantations that carry us along intricate arrays of imagery to leave us spinning and elevated as “rooks, crows, and turkey vultures and smoke from distant fire.”

And finally, Mark Young’s poems delight us with juxtaposition, colliding observations such as that “Near death experiences dwarf all other categories” with “The cook was very personable, an exemplary professional. I was so excited. He came out in January” to startle us with his effortless and uncannily pleasurable verbal dope slaps.

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann


Welcome to the visual art of Posit 6!

It’s my pleasure to gather the fine work of five artists working in a range of idioms and media.

Sabhad Adam’s funny and poignant paintings of adults sitting in baby carriages marry the absurd with the sentimental. These overgrown babies scowl at us with unwavering stares, provoking us to consider the politically subversive subtext of these unsettling works.

The mad, mad world of John Yoyogi Fortes is inhabited by ids and egos, color and movement. His paintings are funny, profound and visually gorgeous. The work is as direct and spontaneous as if there were a direct line from his brain to the canvas.

Gilbert Garcin photographs a highly structured and disciplined world in luscious black, white and infinite grey tones. Man stands alone in a Universe of his own making. Solemn and quiet, these photographs invite us to witness the archetypical dramas enacted by one man’s imagination.

The drawings of Carol Radsprecher bounce with barely contained energy. Hints of figuration and narrative tease at the stories lurking beneath these surfaces of vibrant color and suggestive form.

And Hinke Schreuders’ work depicts a skewed version of idealized women in vintage advertising. Veils of embroidery pop the work into an eerily resonant psychological third dimension.

Thank you for viewing!

Melissa Stern