Published on Academy of American Poets (


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.

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


Nicole Callihan

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

Date Published: 2015-05-14

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