My student tells me that the heart has no neurons, that we overestimate it, that it can’t really feel. She
thinks the brain is superior, but then again, she would think that. Ba-dump-bump. She kind of laughs like
this thing with the heart is an old chicken joke, and I nod because of course she’s right: the heart has no neurons. Even I know this, but I only know it the way I know that the table has no neurons and that the
cup has no neurons and that even the coffee in the cup, smart as it seems, has no neurons either. It
strikes me that when my ex told me I wasn’t in the least bit neurotic he meant it as an insult. These days,
people are drowning more than ever: planes disappear, boats capsize; and when we’re not drowning,
we mistake things we can’t name for things we can. Before I learned to swim, I danced in circles and
waited for my mother’s call. These days, I do the same, though sometimes I stop and write the word
“shame” just to see it vibrate on the page. Look at that: shame. I ask my student where the body fits in.
She looks down at her spring sweater, and I realize the ridiculousness of my question.


Nicole Callihan’s poems, stories and essays have appeared in Forklift, Ohio, Cream City Review, The L Magazine, North American Review and Painted Bride Quarterly. Her first book of poems, SuperLoop, was published in early 2014. Find her on the web at