One Poem by Nicole Callihan

First Proof Everything Is Temporary

Everything is Temporary 


If I were face-up in the MRI machine, I’d see the cherry blossoms affixed to the ceiling.

But I’m face-down.

My arms are extended above my head.

A crane, I read this morning, can stay aloft for up to ten hours.

It barely needs to flap its wings.

There is a plastic window and a mirror to make me feel as if I can see the women on the other side of the glass.

If I’m scared, I should squeeze the egg.

I’m scared, but I don’t squeeze the egg.

Everything is temporary, I say in my head.

Everything is temporary, I say over and over.

This makes me feel better. 

Everything is temporary. 

Until it makes me feel worse. 

Everything is temporary. 

But feeling worse feels foolish, because really, Everything is temporary. 

On the way to the hospital, I dropped two letters into the blue mailbox.    

Now, on a train headed north, the chatty lady across the aisle is also drinking a White Claw. She takes off her mask to show me how friendly she is.    

I have breast cancer, I say, and really don’t want to deal with COVID during my surgery

Everything is temporary.    

Even my friendship with this lady across the aisle. Even though we both drink White Claw and have paid for a Business Class ticket.    

Cranes are perennially monogamous.    

I’m not sure what this means, but Wikipedia tells me it’s important, that scientists study it.    

If early mating attempts fail, they will divorce.    

Everything is temporary.    

I suppose a failure for cranes is simply something that doesn’t result in an egg which won’t result in a bird which won’t result in 20-30 years of flight. 

Are you okay? The woman behind the glass asks.    

I don’t think so, I say. Can I move?    

No, she says.    

I wiggle my toes inside my doubled-up socks. She says nothing. I have moved, undiscovered. It’s like being naked under your coat.    

This morning, after teaching, before heading to the hospital, I stood in my panties in front of the mirror.    

I thought, this is my temporary body.    

I’ve been having dreams that I am only a body.    

Zoë dreamed that she could unzip her body from herself, but I dreamed there was no self.  

What if Zoë were to help me out of my dress some evening, like I used to zip or unzip my mother?    

Come, mother would say, zip me up.    

Or, returning home, Come unzip me.    

But in the evening light, Zoë, having rubbed a little egg-shaped soap to my zipper’s metal teeth, would discover my absence. Oh goodness, she might say. There is nothing here, and then, because she is kind, But you are fine just the way you are.    

The train attendant wears a glitter mask, and the man in front of me has made several calls that begin, Hey, honey. 

Is he calling the same honey every time? Does he call everyone honey?    

If stored properly, honey stays good for decades    

But how does one know what has been properly stored?    

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of my wedding; it is the seventh month of the pandemic; it has been three and a half weeks since I found out I have cancer; the election is in fourteen days.    

Everything is temporary.    

Even the patriarchy, and my White Claw, and the crane’s flight, and the machine still beeping in my brain, the pretty red mesh of the bandage where the IV was inserted, the clouds crossing the train’s window, the train, the window, even the beautiful expanse of river that has finally opened to me, the changing leaves, the reflection of the changing leaves in the river of the changed leaves, the sky, even the searching, the reaching, the naming, even those. Even this, temporary.    

Nicole Callihan writes poems and stories. Her most recent collection, Elsewhere, a collaboration with Zoë Ryder White, was released by Sixth Finch in March 2020. Find out more at www.nicolecallihan.com.

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