Poem of the Week | November 14, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Having Purged” by Nicole Callihan.

Nicole Callihan’s This Strange Garment will be published by Terrapin Books in 2023. Her other books include SuperLoop and the poetry chapbooks: The Deeply Flawed Human, Downtown, and ELSEWHERE (with Zoë Ryder White), as well as the novella, The Couples. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Conduit, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Find out more at https://www.nicolecallihan.com/


Having Purged

Or maybe purged is the wrong word.
Having taken spaghetti into my throat.
Having been wife. Been made wife.
Been hunter, but also hunted. Having
chilled so many bottles of the white stuff.
Having pulled the shades, the wild card,
the wool, the pretty shirt with the tiny roses
over my head. Having a ball. The gall.
Having been so casual. Having trace
amounts of blood, of protein, of gold,
leukocytes, ketones. Having wished
for something I already have. Having
told X why, and ridden to the hospital
in the cold. Having a body. A vagina.
Language. Having utter discombobulation.
A skeleton carrying a birthday cake.
Having been to the lake. What’s missing?
What is the mourned thing? The glass
on the bedside table, the bruise on the knee
that was unknowingly knocked. I tell you
there was something upside down.
A gutted fish on a paper dish. To vocalize
would be to say this thing or that. To tell
one woman’s truth, to stand at an outpost,
on a threshold, on a cafeteria table,
to be able to say. And having said
to not be made alone. Having longing.
Having been given the switch. Having
ancestors and wreckage. It feels so silly
to come to the page. A modern calamity.
Stolen offering. Something about karma,
about being sorry. The curry fries.
About heaving, cleaving. The heave
and ho, the cleaving to. A drink at the mall.
And man, the binge which preceded it all.


Author’s Note

In sixth grade–Tulsa, 1985–we had a school play about “computers.” I think I was an understudy for the keyboard. Anyway, we had to march around in a circle chanting “Garbage in! Garbage out! Garbage in! Garbage out!” I’m pretty sure I started writing this poem then.