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.   
 

More by Nicole Callihan

The End of the Pier

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 when the sky darkened,
again, I thought it was over, but then,
you became water. I closed my eyes
and lay on top of you, swallowed you,
let you swallow me too. And when
you carried my body back to shore—
as I trusted that you would do—
well, then, you became shore too,
and I knew, finally, I would never be through.

Burrow

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 rested was wet. So wet, she said.
As if I’d been crying all night long. But then it stopped.
The animal, wherever it was, had nursed itself well. Or died.
It would be years before we found anything resembling a body.

dwelling

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 pots against my radiator thighs
duct-taped my mouth  all the doors

if only we could lose the hour
if only we could witness a single bloom

listen  if spring ever comes
I will open these windows to you

and beat this old rug of a soul clean
the house will be pristine

and I will be your wife again