by Nicole Callihan
Or, the winter I kept being turned into a pillar of salt.
The assignment was to not mention the word mother.
The streets were lined.
The paper was lined.
What did I know of disappointment?
Or of the avenue?
If the action of turning backwards slows movement, there remains an implication of forward momentum.
If the moment of turning back is related to all moments of turning back.
Which is to say: too much, too soon.
Space approaches infinity: I keep all that is good in a cloud, and all that is bad, and all that is mediocre.
You are becoming more and less.
More or less, you are becoming.
A month from now, it will not be snow that falls.
Will you have the bodily capacity to recall the actual?
If the head on which the lice crawls is the same head which holds the brain.
If the heart which can be stinted and/or removed is the same heart which can hold two things.
Fitzgerald believed in the divided self.
Or, maybe that was someone else.
Or, I am someone else.
Which is to say: even those disappointments didn’t prepare me.
The woman who walks the street alone is not the same woman who walks the street with her family.
At this very moment, there are snowflakes in my daughter’s eyelashes.
But now they have melted.
If the head on which the lice crawls is the same head which we point to when we say “crazy” or “hat,” when we say, “Where is your hat?”
The head turns in the same way that the head had turned to find a mouth.
Come spring, disappointment confronts the birds.
Which is to say: I am not unhappy.
Was it, as mother had said, better to have loved?
But I mentioned her. And I should. Surely.
For is there anyone but mother to get on her knees with a comb in her mouth and pick the lice, to assure us that this—these lice, this this—has been happening since the beginning of time?
Maybe an aunt, or a nurse, or a lady at a salon deep in Brooklyn, but then only for a price, and a high one at that.
The heart is not a basket of broken eggs.
A handful of salt tossed over a shoulder may or may not ward against disappointment.
Which is to say: if ever you come across these words, scratch out the birds; turn the I into you, my mother into me; replace all other words with hope.
And also, try to imagine me, here, in this light, turning back from turning back.
The whorl of the return.
The forgive me, my love, just as the air begins to warm.
Last updated November 23, 2022