Four Poems by Nicole Callihan

by: Nicole Callihan

In these gnomic, dream-like poems, Nicole Callihan offers a constellation of self, landscape, and language, all of which interpenetrate each other, offering wisps of narrative as elusive and fragile as experience itself.


East of the mouth

A supermarket light

The dream

I push you in a cart

And we scream


Our middle-aged bodies

Liven in the dusk


The violence of violets

West of the navel

Down south

I’ll find you

All filled up with rain


On a train headed north

Among my belongings

A bag of oranges

Heavy in my lap

My gift to you

I’ll eat it all up

Before the grief kicks in



Fifty cents a lucy

++++++Fifty cents to unloose the self

Is to unloose

++++++++++++That which may be lost

Unlawfully leased

++++++Inarticulately loused

(See: the black comb)

And later lying laying

++++++++++++Is it which

To lie to lay

++++++The indirect object is which

Which is the indirect object

++++++++++++The lucy itself



To live among those

++++++Is to live unlonesomely


The Missing Ring

Ankle-deep in the clover,
my girls and I hunt not for the symbol
of the thing but for the thing itself,

flash of sterling and diamond
in the grasses, the exchanged thing,
that which a decade ago

I stood greedily accepting among
the ranunculus and just-parted skies,
how the soul offers herself up,

how I took the name as if it were my own
and wrung it round my finger,
a child tying a ribbon to remember,

and memory itself a lopsided thumb,
a paging through all the seasons,
and so spring is come again, and what

could I do but put the ring in my pocket,
a safekeeping that isn’t safe, a hole
worn through by the materials that mark me

as mother and wife, less seldom as woman,
but as woman too, and losing it,
do I lose everything, do I lose nothing,

do I lose that moment some fifteen years gone
when sitting in a well-lit room, he told me,
breathlessly, that I have such pretty feet?



“The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot be.”
— John Ashbery

On Partridge Hill Lane,
I wash the bowl twice
and take my thumbnail
to the dry raspberry jam.
The bend in the road
is as sad as the poem
as sad as the house,
my body, this mind,
peanut butter in the trap,
the mice in the walls,
the fat in my thighs,
my daughters’ humming.
Things I want to be mine
aren’t mine. Things I don’t
want to be mine aren’t mine.
I can hardly lay claim
to this life. Even blame
has moved from the shaft
of morning light to shadow.


Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), and Downtown (2017). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Sixth Finch, Plume, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her next project, Translucence, a dual-language, cross-culture collaboration with Arabic poet Samar Abdel Jaber, will be published by Indolent Books in 2018. Find her on the web at

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