Gift

 

 
 
 
          My grandmother clasped cousin Stella’s hand, divining the heart

of things: the only house she’d buy would burn in the spring,

          daughters’ dresses floating through windows. (It’s not something

to say in polite company.) Peculiar sight twining in our bloodline (yet our bodies

          trouble to make moon-eyed children), I’ve buried my mother’s hallelujahs

& salt-throwing grandmother’s prophecies (she said I was in love,

          she was wrong) in the sea’s dark oil. Still, I touched José’s arm,

& saw his mother slap him for pissing on the floor & he hated me for it.

          The third eye’s gate swings open, letting visions in and out as horses.

I asked my grandmother, who baked doughy babka & lifted her hands’

          glowing bones to make the sign of the cross, who do you watch?

Now, she’s gone & I’m lonely, knowing all bright things pass away. On

          the other side, women laboring in the saint-fields grow younger, she

told me, touching chin whiskers. Here, I carry others’ lives, incessant

          bird-noise suffering. I split myself over & over, then sew

these little deaths inside my pelvis. I cry to be carried. Because we all

         long for something to quiet us down. Tell me, the living & dead say,

you’ll see me even when my ashes blow away. Out of my skull, evening primrose

          will flower. Out of the wildest dark.
 
 
 

Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (ELJ Editions, 2015), and the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press), and Bone of My Bone, a winning manuscript in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Memorious, Radar Poetry, PANK, Salt Hill Journal, Thrush Poetry Journal, Word Riot and West Branch, among others. She’s the recipient of a 2017 poetry fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, and poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Princemere Journal and Ruminate Magazine. She earned her MFA in poetry at the Pennsylvania State University. She’s the editor-in-chief of Wearables and executive director of branded content & professional development at the Advertising Specialty Institute. In 2016, she was named one of FOLIO’s Top Women in Media. Visit her online at www.nicolerollender.com.