True Story w/ Baltimore Oriole
Outside of their mating season, Baltimore Orioles are mostly solitary creatures. Even in Chicago, they’re called Baltimore Orioles, even when they fly south to the flowering canopy trees of Mexico to warm themselves in winter. I once saw a photograph of a replication of a drawing of a bird by Leonardo da Vinci. In it, the bird’s heart is a machine, and there are three very small men trying to figure out how the machine works. Sometimes I don’t think the machine works very well; other times, I get lost trying to figure out how to describe the light. The body weight of a Baltimore Oriole averages a little over thirty-three grams; the female human brain weighs approximately thirty-six times more. It is amazing what can be held in the brain. This morning, I held a pair of your boots in mine, newly shined, and I got down on my knees to unlace them. From far away, these words look like any words, but up close, they are different.
True Story w/ Dodo
To go the way of; to be as dead as one; as in, my love for you went the way of the dodo; or, once I hit forty, my body went the way of the dodo; or, I used to be fairly sensical, but my mind went the way of; or, New York City was such a sparkly thing; it promised to save our souls, acknowledge us, offer us respite, and in the spring, everything bloomed, and the people took off their clothes and smiled at each other, and come fall, they put them back on and smiled at each other, and there was that little bar on E. 7th where we would drink cheap, cold beer and talk about our disappointing childhoods and write poems we believed to be great on bev naps that we’d use to mop up the whiskey we’d later spill, but then, it went the way of the dodo; or time, oh time—remember how much of it we used to have?—how we would sit in a field and watch the horses, how we made pictures of the clouds, how time itself would collapse and expand while I searched for your mouth in the dark, found it, nay, lost it, nay, found it again. Strickland and Melville will dissect our heads, separating the skin from the skull in two halves. The few feathers on our bodies will be preserved with witch hazel and vinegar. My female foot, 11% smaller than yours, will be posed as if to look like I am running. (Am I running?). Yes, dear. We, too, shall go the way of the dodo.
True Story w/Mourning Dove
The day had been a picnic blanket. It was laid out. It was, perhaps, even gingham. I looked out from my window on the 44th floor. The birds flew beneath me. Some mornings, my daughters like to pretend that the cars and buses below are their toys. And why wouldn’t they be? Except, of course, that they are transporting humans, and the humans are carrying quarter chickens in plastic containers, and handkerchiefs, and candies to suck on when their throats feel dry, and also their own organs, some of which may be enlarged, some diminishing, some sending cues through their bodies which are translated into feelings of longing or despair. When Caitlin came to visit, she said, living here must change your very cells. I served her tuna and hardboiled eggs. Was I different? I could only guess. Did she want something sweet? No. Tea? No. Is that a drone? Why, yes, it is.
True Story w/ Zebra Finch
Of all the brains of all the songbirds, scientists have studied that of the zebra finch most closely. Ventral Regions L3 and the caudomedial nidopallum (NCM) contain harmonies and syllable syntax. Mornings, I cluster algorithms to song sounds, and this does not make me unhappy. The populations of my neurons which are tuned to harmonics respond well to coffee, to a handful of almonds, to the laughter of my daughters, though often I am yelling, mostly about teethbrushing, and in these moments, that which is differentially coded in my auditory context becomes ashamed. I once witnessed a swamp sparrow in a desert, a drowning woman on land, a phoneme categorization in a poem. What I am saying is: I love you, zebra finch, regardless of your stereotyped sequences. A songbird brain is not necessarily a brain in pain, but, oh the rhythm! There was a guy in college that we called Stain. I think his real name was Shane. Derek Joe would sing “Stain’s in Pain” on his guitar, and we would join in the chorus. It was a new year. It was the mid-nineties. Annabelle had made a big pot of potato soup, and we all promised to kill ourselves if we ever stopped making art, though none of us ever did, at least not that I got wind of.
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, Copper Nickel, 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, will be released by Indolent Books in 2018. Find her on the web at www.nicolecallihan.com.