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About this Poem 

“One afternoon, in Oklahoma, when I was a teenager, I sat in a field, and a boy put his Sony walkman on my head and blasted Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Music of the Night’ into my ears. I had never heard anything so powerful. That moment made me completely reimagine everything I believed about art, beauty, and possibility.”
Nicole Callihan

Fable

Our paper house sat
on the banks of the red river

and though mother
wasn’t like other mothers

I was like other girls
trapped and lonely

and painting pictures
in the stars. I was slick

with old birth or early longing,
already halfway between

who I wanted to be and who I was.
Our floors were made of flame

but there was no wind
so we were as safe as anyone.

When spring came,
I walked for a very long time

up I-35, and at the end of the road,
I found a boy who placed earphones

onto my head and pumped opera
into my body. I can feel it still.

Underneath that treeless sky,
I was as changed as I would ever be.

Not even mother noticed.   
 

Copyright © 2015 by Nicole Callihan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Nicole Callihan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Nicole Callihan. Photo credit: Amanda Field.

Nicole Callihan

Nicole Callihan is author of Translucence, co-written with Samar Abdel Jaber (Indolent Books, 2018).

by this poet

poem

that winter it was so cold
I had nowhere to go but inside

my heart was a clock on the kitchen wall
and I tacked up curtains to keep

anyone from looking in on my liver
up river  snow kept coming

and the aching thing ached still
husband it was yours for the taking

I clanged

poem

I walked to the end of the pier
and threw your name into the sea,
and when you flew back to me—
a silver fish—I devoured you,
cleaned you to the bone. I was through.
But then you came back again:
as sun on water. I reached for you,
skimmed my hands over the light of you.
And

2
poem

My mother says the sound haunted her.
She thought an animal had crawled under her bed
and that it was hurt. Every night for a week,
the whimpering woke her. Mornings, she reached the long hand
of the broom underneath the dust ruffle but it came out clean.
The pillow where her head had