On the beach, asking questions of the wind,
it was the horse conch I straddled,
but what was it I thought I could know of the wind
that it did not already know of me?
It is a Monday in July and having no poisonous flowers,
no magical seaweed, not even salt on my skin,
I lunch on salmon in plastic, separate the flesh
with more plastic, sip bathroom sink water
from more plastic still. I consider 450 years from now
when this plastic will finally, if it’s weak, decompose,
and I am grateful I will be dead by then,
that my daughters will be dead, that their daughters
will be dead, because I do not want to imagine us
standing vigil, remembering this very summer day
and how well the plastic held the salmon and the water.
As the years go by, my thirst gets deeper. I keep
meaning to ask my mother to write me a prescription
that will make me skinny and sober and solemn,
but she is busy too, the shit-for-brains ex-husband,
the vials of poison, the Baked Lays. She recommends
only the latter and slips me a map that takes me years
to realize only leads back to her. But I’m talking about
the wind, or I’m talking to the wind, talking with,
and the wind is acting lovely, is brushing my hair
from my face. When Ella’s hands are dirty, she holds me
really tight and says, I love you so much, mama,
I love you sooooo much, and she wipes the grease
all over me, and I say, Oh, I love you too, until I realize
I am a napkin. Let me suck your nipples, mama, she says.
No more milk! I say and point to the plastic cup.
She’s too old for this. And so am I. But in plastic years,
we are hardly even born. In plastic years, I would only be 1,
and barely 1, and unable to form words yet, and so could
do little but sit on the beach and pretend my shell was a horse.
Giddy-up, I would say, Giddy-up, but it would sound
like nothing. Everything starts out sounding like nothing.
And, probably, in the end, everything sounds that way too.
Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (forthcoming 2018). Her poems have appeared in 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.