3 Poems by Nicole Callihan

Craft Talk (3); Zermatt

You dream of a small goat with a bell around its neck. When you leave the bed and go to the window, there is moonlight on the Matterhorn and—bathed in the moonlight—is not one goat but a thousand. Looking closer, listening more deeply, you realize there are not one thousand goats but an infinitum. Every animal is a goat, every bush, every shape and shadow, the spire in the town center, the drunk man sweeping the streets, the fearless woman bicycling nowhere, even your own cheap-ass heart, surrounded in questionable flesh, wearing the nightclothes of some other person—all goats. The whole world bleats and rings. This is why you must wake early to make poems. Your work is to eradicate: the bells should be silenced by sunrise. After that, you can sit on the balcony with the man you call husband, comment on the fresh air, enjoy a cappuccino.

Craft Talk (5); Earth

I once had a lover who told me a story about the moon. While the lover was talking, I watched his mouth move, and I watched as he lifted his hand to his face. He was the kind of lover with facial hair, and when he was being thoughtful, he would lift his hand and touch the facial hair. Sometimes, I would think, this is my lover with facial hair, and he is touching his facial hair because he is being thoughtful, but on this night—someone had died—I remember thinking, I will never forget this story about the moon that my thoughtful lover with facial hair is telling me. That’s how spectacular the story about the moon was. It held everything. And when you thought you understood it, it changed. In that way, the story of the moon was the moon itself. There were phases and darknesses and what looked like emptiness but was really just a trick of the eye. Eventually, you realized that understanding was simple; that the more it changed, the more it became; the more dynamic, the more static. What I mean is: memory cannot be trusted; you must write everything down. Two years, or a decade, or two decades have passed–enough moons to matter–and I remember nothing of the moon story, only my lover with facial hair, and his mouth opening and closing as he told me a story about the moon that I promised myself I would never forget.

Craft Talk (9); Poolside

Marie Howe once told me that given a choice most people would rather eat a hot dog than read a poem. I remember thinking how I did, in fact, enjoy hotdogs; how I was hungry; how I had stocked up on ketchup and mayo, and how, in perfect proportions, there are few things more delicious, especially by the pool, in summer, and fresh off the grill, than a hotdog with ketchup and mayo. But why am I telling you this? Because I suspect you are hungry too? Because I just woke from a nap in which I dreamed the perfect poem but it was written on a piece of paper that floated away in the blue? I have been getting tanner than I probably should. Also, I use too many paper towels. Also, I can’t even hear iambs. Just now, I thought to write in all caps: I FUCKING LOVE HOT DOGS. But, I stopped myself, and then I let myself. Sometimes the only thing we can do is to let ourselves.


Nicole Callihan writes poems and stories. Her work has appeared in Tin House, American Poetry Review and Copper Nickel. Her novella, “The Couples,” was published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019. Find out more at www.nicolecallihan.com.

Photo by Morgana Bartolomei on Unsplash

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