In the Parking Lot of the Stop & Shop I Concede to the Afterlife

Photo: © Stefan Hengst. All rights reserved.

I need bread, milk, & eggs,
but the morning sun is honey,
and Frank Stanford is sitting
on the gate of his flatbed truck,
taking out his butterfly knife
to slice an apple for his lady friend.
Something blue flies away from him.
I say, “Frank, your knife is made
of butterflies.” He says, “Nicole,
your soul is.” We laugh because
butterflies or not, we’ve still got blades.
“Bluebirds die,” he says, “And treefrogs.
And motherfuckers. And fucking mothers.”
I say yes and am glad I’ve worn
my best cut-offs, spit-brushed my brows.
“But what of the poets who have lost
their eyes?” I ask. It is the twenty-first
century, fools have taken over, sick people
are getting sicker, poor people poorer,
and I need to get bread so I can toast it
for my girls. “Why do you weep, woman?
It’s not raining,” he says, but as he says it,
the sky gets torn in two. “Aw, shit,” he says.
And, “Yeah,” I say, and “Yeah,” he says back.
We take shelter, share a cigarette.
I scratch last night’s bites on my legs.
“Best thing about being dead?” he says.
“No skeeters! Nary, a drop of fresh blood.”
“And is it okay,” I ask, “if I spend a summer
doing nothing but counting squares of light?”
“Yes,” he says, “but not this summer.
You have milk to buy.” “Okay,” I say.
“Okay,” he says. The cool florescence
of the supermarket envelops me.
I smile at the living who walk the aisles.
“Good morning.” I check carefully to make
sure no egg is broken before placing the carton
in my plastic basket. If I get home soon enough,
I tell myself, the birds might still be singing.

Nicole Callihan writes poems and stories. Her poetry books include SuperLoop (2014) and Translucence (with Samar Abdel Jaber, 2018), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (with Zoë Ryder White, 2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (2018). Her novella, The Couples, was published by Mason Jar Press in summer 2019. Find out more at

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Issue 8

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