Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Two poems

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Progress

I keep meaning to ask my dad

about when he was a carnie

and his boss made him wrestle

a badger into its cage,

 

but instead I do things like

spread nut butter onto bread,

scratch gunk off of sweaters,

forget to clip my daughters' nails.

 

When my mother was a girl,

the preacher healed her

lazy eye. When I was a girl,

preachers started going to jail.

 

I mean, sure, we laughed

at Tammy Faye Baker, but still,

we went to PTL, walked around

that mall that had a jillion stars

 

shining from the ceilings,

marveled at the beauty of It all.

The thing is I don't know if we're
getting more civilized or less, but

 

I keep meaning to tell my girls
that there's a whole 'nother world:

dirtier and with more junk food;

wilder animals, bigger Gods.

 

 

The Eighth Wonder

I keep wishing there was a blooming
tree out my window but I'm in Brooklyn
and I can't tell if I’m looking at a school or a jail.
All I know is if I crank my neck hard
I get four square inches of blue sky.

Yesterday, somebody told me
life is eight miles long,
and I confessed to my students
that they make me want
to smoke cigarettes and fling
open the windows and cry.
I imagined them, in their sneakers,
sitting on the side of that
eight-mile road, sticking their thumbs
up, waiting for a ride.

I can't make you care, I said,
hoping I could make them care.

There's this one kid sitting in the back,
thumb forever poised to text, and he tells me
he doesn't need to visit the Grand Canyon:
he's seen enough pictures of it.

This is what I want to happen:
I want the asphalt to get hot
and some old man to slow way down
and motion to the back of his pickup truck.
I want this kid to knock his knee
when he's climbing in. I want it to hurt.
And then I want him to sit, phoneless,
in the back of that truck for 2,397 miles.

This is it, kid, the old man will say.
The kid will stand, tiny, beside
the mile-deep gash in the earth.
The wind will pick up. Maybe he'll
kneel down on his hands and knees
and eat the dirt or pray or throw
his arms in the air and yell like
a double-rainbow maniac. Or maybe
he'll just do the thing we all do best
and take one breath after another.
But this breath, this one, he’ll feel.


Nicole Callihan‘s poems, stories, and essays have appeared in The L Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, the North American Review, and Ohio Edit. She lives in Brooklyn and Connecticut with her husband and daughters.


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Wonderful poems! Thank you so much for writing them.
"The Eighth Wonder" was my smile for tonight. I love a poem with deep charm.
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