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How to Grow a Daffodil

poetry by Hallie Nowak

How to Grow a Daffodil

Plant a baby tooth in the fertile soil. Remember the time when you got drunk and told your mom that you hate her. Stroke your pallid cheek until a single tear is born from your eye duct. Allow the water you create to pour into the earth. Allow the water you create to pour into yourself. Bury your memory in the soil.  Recall the memory of swallowing your tooth with a mouthful of steamed broccoli. Cup your hands over your mouth and whisper, Build something out of nothing. Build nothing into everything. Become the soil. Become your mother. Observe the fragile sprout emerging from your pupil. Call your ex. Call all of your exes at once. Thank your father for drinking a gallon of gasoline. Get in your car. Watch the daffodil sprout through the cracks in your steering wheel. Feel the daffodil bloom through the gap in your teeth, the gap in your bones.

My Coworker Tells Me He Bought a Betta Fish After His Divorce

poetry by Hallie Nowak

My Coworker Tells Me He Bought a Betta Fish After His Divorce

Although the fish was red, his daughter named it Blue.

He says the fish was special. 

He talked to its small red scales, 

its unmoving black eyes. The fish, upon hearing

his voice, would swim toward him and listen, I guess,

Justin says, half incredulous, half hopeful, a fish bowl

half full. He didn’t tell me what they talked about,

wrote it off as the fish sensing vibrations from his voice

in room temperature water.


I like to imagine red fins flowing elegantly 

like a gracious fire,

humble, beady black eyes peering deep,

gutting the dark center of loneliness. 

I know this because Betta fish live alone.


As a child, I remember crying in a Petsmart,

remember my weepy eyeing of aisles of Betta Fish.

Some floating dumbly, barely alive

like colorful clusters of algae, others motionless,

belly up, sunken, red, sick, dying,

but never really dead. 


What most people don’t know

is that Betta fish shouldn’t live alone,

that they can live fine with others.

What I’ve learned and unlearned and learned

again is that animals know how to feel,

even the ones with cold blood, and blue,

I think, is one of the kindest colors.


Justin knew this without knowing it:

the darkness, two fingers freed from

golden rings, the small circular ripples

expelled from the Betta’s lips,

a small bowl made of cupped hands,

a fish, a man, silence, words, silence, 

silence, silence. Yes, this is love.

Cataloguing the Things That Have Brought Me to Tears This Month

poetry by Hallie Nowak

Cataloguing the Things That Have Brought Me to Tears This Month

One: A sharp, unexpected pain in my side slicing my breath in two, equal parts.


Two: Pinking wilts of orchids on a brown kitchen table.


Three: A fresh heap of laundry wafting through an empty apartment. 


Four: My friend swerving their car for a plastic bag in the middle of midnight thinking it was a white rabbit.


Five: Foxes mate for life. 


Five (cont.): My hair refracts orange light when the setting sun strikes.


Six: Who am I kidding, my hair went gray two years ago when I dreamt about my hair growing gray.  I am not an egoist. I don’t look in the mirror every day.


Seven: My cat’s whiskers twitch when I walk through the front door.


Eight: His hand heavy with sleep pushed my fingers from intertwining.


Nine: If I could only leave my body for the night.


Ten: Enough. I don’t like who I am.


Eleven: Some trauma is too blinding to be seen in poetic tense.


Twelve: Yes, foxes mate for life. 


Thirteen: We nurse our young with warm pulses of milk.


Fourteen: Sharp breath slices my sternum open. In the biopsy, my cause of birth is debilitating high expectations. 


Fifteen: I have nothing interesting to say.


Sixteen: Cellulite on my thighs.


Seventeen: When I was seventeen, I didn’t know the definition of the word infatuation. I used it incorrectly in approximately three conversations. 


Eighteen: Purple orchids grow in the place my eyes should be. My body is a lightly used casket. Who is borrowing this body tonight?


Hallie Nowak

Hallie Nowak is a poet and artist writing and residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she is in pursuit of her undergraduate degree in English at Purdue University Fort Wayne. She is the author of Girlblooded, a poetry chapbook (Dandelion Review, 2018). Her work can also be read in Okay Donkey, The Paragon Press, and Noble/Gas Qrtrly where her poem, “A Dissected Body Speaks,” was awarded runner-up for the 2018 Birdwhistle Prize. 


Twitter: @heyguysimhallie

Instagram: @hallie_nowak

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