Some nights I wake up and my legs are numb, so I bang on them and bang and bang and then I start hitting my husband, his back, and I say my legs, I can’t move my legs, and he says what, but then he is asleep, and finally I can move them so I make myself get up. By the side of the bed, I do a downward dog. I say something like, god, please don’t let me have ms. I say god, if you just let me keep walking I promise I won’t ever tell another lie. With age, desire becomes garbled. How sad, I think, to only desire to walk but really that is my only desire, to keep walking, and if not my only desire, at least my primary desire. To watch the pageant of our primary desires: first a lollipop, then a princess, the nod from the math teacher, seventh grade, Chad Harrington, the dance. In the news, a woman who has always identified herself as disabled is looking for a doctor who will sever the nerves in her spine and leave her with no use of her arms or legs. I wonder how she will wave goodbye. Years ago, a friend told me about his grandmother, 90, who had grown tired of eating. She was so sick, she said, and so tired, of having to work her jaws to chew the food. This is what he told me at her funeral. We ate tiny cakes and drank lukewarm coffee and, shortly after, grew apart, though now I see him sometimes on Facebook, and he looks happy, smiling, as it seems, we all do, except those miserable fucks that we want to un-friend, but really, they’ll die someday too, which is as they would have it, which is as we will have it too.
The French have words for hobbyhorse, for peach, baby, road. Perhaps late at night, under a Buck moon blocked by sycamores shielded by a tin ceiling, they hear something. Cri-du-chat, they whisper. Cat’s cry. To hear a cat cry is to long for a bowl in which milk might be poured, lapped up.
cry is to eye
as Mouth is to hunger
MaMa to DaDa
Globus sensation, most commonly known as a lump in the throat, is a common side effect of crying. I can remember only one night in recent years when I cried because I was sad. The tears fell from my eyes (see: lacrimal punctum), and it was such a strange feeling that I kept touching my cheeks. In the dark room, I ate from a bowl of m&m’s and brought my fingers to my face, again and again. The woman (my mother’s age) across from me who I thought was my friend though maybe she wasn’t because surely a friend would not have wanted to see me cry so much and so publicly, kept shrugging her shoulders, as if to say, I am only telling you the way of the world, as if she did not remember that I learned that way a long time ago when I was a child with little more than a stick in my hand.
According to Wikipedia where I get any information not already contained in my body, there are three dimensions to crying. In the spatial perspective, the sad crier is thought to be reaching out “there,” where “there” is, perhaps, a home, missed, or some perceived alternate location, such as in the case of a dead loved one. There, then, is a place with a pearly gate. There, then, is buried in the earth. The joyful crier, on the other hand, acknowledges being “here,” “here” at your daughter’s graduation, or your colleague’s wedding, or at this wooden table; wandering Paris, even, holding the stick-end of your hobby horse and pointing towards the sky.
Either I’m hungry, or I’m sad and being sad makes me feel like I’m hungry but I think I might really be hungry because this morning my daughter ate my oatmeal. What could I say? No? So now I’m hungry which makes me worry that I’m actually sad which is making me think I’m hungry but, no, I really am hungry. And where I am there are no bananas.
Because I have several times had blind children touch my face to “see” me; because I have read poems to so many children in so many hospital beds; because I have held the hand of a child who had no words and helped him point to a red circle; because as I did, I noticed bits of cracker under the pointer-finger nail which needed badly to be clipped; because my friends call me retarded for hating the word retarded; because there are classrooms where soft music plays and the teacher’s primary work is to wipe drool off the face of the student; because those classrooms have windows; because there are chromosomal disorders; because at first you might think everything is okay but then you realize the baby’s head is oddly small and then you notice her cry sounds like the cry of a cat; because I still carry that whole God-only-gives-you-what-you-can-handle deep inside my bones; because I am afraid of how much I can handle; because I thought, not just once but many times, about not terminating the pregnancy when they told me the child would be born with severe deformities; because I terminated it anyway; because of these, with each live birth, I hold my breath.
When I imagine my whole world ending (the girls and their father crushed by logs on their way to church while I, flu-ish, am home in bed) I imagine that I will move to Paris, rent a dark room and learn only enough words to keep me fed.
Nicole Callihan writes poems, stories and essays. Her work has appeared in Washington Square, Salt Hill, lingo and The North American Review. In early 2014, her first book of poems, Super Loop, will be published by Sock Monkey Press. Find her on the web at www.nicolecallihan.com.