All in by Nicole Callihan

by Nicole Callihan

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 writes poems and stories. Her poetry books include SuperLoop (2014) and Translucence (with Samar Abdel Jaber, 2018), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (with Zoë Ryder White, 2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (2018). Her novella, The Couples, will be published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019. Find out more at

by Nicole Callihan

Born, I cried,

and growing, I cried.

Gathering the broken egg, I cried.

Making the pancakes, eating the pancakes,

cleaning up after the pancakes, I cried.

Watching you swim to the deep area, I cried.

Watching you return to the shallows, I cried.

When my husband could not love me

like I wanted, I cried.

When I could not love my husband

as he needed, I cried.

When we loved each other anyway, I cried.


And then, there was the pulling of the weeds,

which I did all morning, crying,

and the watching them return,

which I did all afternoon, crying.

Now, evening, and what am I to do

but pull the weeds again,

and let the mosquitos suck on me,

and watch the stars come out, one by one?


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 (2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Sixth Finch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her latest project, Translucence, a dual-language, cross-culture collaboration with Palestinian poet Samar Abdel Jaber, was released by Indolent Books in 2018.