Monday, February 4, 2013


Yesterday, I chased Eva with a Q-tip,
and finally caught her, pinned

her down, like some exotic, menacing
butterfly, my knees on her elbows--

Just let me clean your ears. I growled.
She kicked, cried. But it was before then

when I went to find the Q-tips
that I thought, Sarah, of you.

They were on the highest shelf
(ears not being our top priority);

I had removed them from their blue box,
and they were in a glass jar, a jar

that had once been a homemade terrarium,
a gift from a friend who had driven

twenty-seven hours with two sick boys
and a moody man just to sleep on my floor.

It's its very own eco-system, she said.
Reaching into that jar, I thought of child-you,

of how child-you must have worn her hair,
of how child-you must have read Ramona Quinby,

and then there was the child-you (pensive) who
was told of her mother's death, the child-you

who must have stood on the other side
of doors, the child-you who might, one night,

have gone looking for Q-tips, pulling out drawers,
ripping through cabinets. Don't touch it,

my friend told me. It seemed, at first,
this Missouri-made world might really thrive,

might bloom impossibly. My heart ached.
Maybe I held Eva down harder than

I would have. Finally, she gave in. I swept the tip
all around. Some girls don't have anyone

to clean their ears, I told her. How do you think
that would feel? By then, she had wriggled

her way free. I stood there alone, feeling the heat
of the light that pressed in on our windows.


sarah gutowski said...

This is lovely, Nicole. Such a pleasure to read more of your work. xoxo Sarah (not the one in your poem -- I thought I should clarify for the benefit of other readers.)

Sarah Dohrmann said...

Why I do believe I am the Sarah of this poem and I am so honored to have been thought of in the moment of cleaning a child's ears and yes, I would have reached my whole fist in the terrarium and no doubt destroyed the impossible perfection, its eco-system disrupted by a greedy little girl. No, I did not read Ramona Quinby but many years later I obsessively watched Daria. There is an connection there. A friend wrote to me yesterday, talking of dream moms. Her dream had to do with lunch in the city and long heart-to-hearts by phone. My dream mom would've pinned me down 'cuz she gave a shit about the wax in my ears, and she would've written poems about it later. You're my dream mom, Nicole! All your haunting terrarium beauty. Thank you for this lovely specimen of a poem, this perfect eco-system.

Nicole Callihan said...

Oh Sarahs! Careful Dohrmann, I may come quipped with Q-tips to our next outing! Much love.

drjalepeno said...

The Q-tip monster strikes again on a defenseless young girl who only wanted to provide a home for various small critters to live in peace and nurture themselves. Mommycare, not as over reaching as Obamacare, but close.

Nicole Callihan said...

Dr. J, you're as insightful as ever.