The Luster of Everything I’m Already Forgetting


I press my mouth      to my son’s warm back,    cowbells distant. This wild
longing to keep      my body between his     & any kind of desolation. Sharp-
boned spells to ripen baskets       of Old World       potatoes & Christ’s body
dry on my tongue:       make me a good mother.       A woman photographed a polar
bear dragging a cub’s head        across snow, tendons’ red      wreckage the color
of earth after it’s burned       or how fireflies’ light look      after you’ve smashed 100
bodies to pulp       a still shimmer of survival.       The doctor cut my perineum
to free my son, heartbeat       galloping—& now      he wants to sleep standing
like a cow        but I beg him to sleep, say       cows can only dream on their veined
sides.       I think of the mother bear        if she isn’t dead, how was the cub     taken
unless famine season—       but we have to fight to the death, don’t we.       My son asks
how he got out       of my dark body.       I tell him he was cut free       & he says he folded
himself like origami          before emerging       a scorpion       razor-tailing out.
When he sleeps I re-hang       fallen star map & trace        his blue crayon trails (Google
says they’re lies) over Eradinus,       heaven’s river        its star names catch     my mother
throat: Azha, hatching place      Keid’s broken eggshells.       I don’t wake my son to look
at the moon. He sleeps       to grow, while I suture velvet      hands that care too much
&  not enough.       Sad house, since the cat has gone.     I want answers from these quiet walls
—it has watched mothers       before me hold       vomiting children     & then bathe them.
This     is the task we’re given, stay,        because if you go, your child     may wander
into a field filled       with rifle fire.     & the origami body      paper-thin skin cleft
from yours can ignite:        flaming wildflower scent      in his matted hair steels
though me.       Once my blue-veined breasts ached       to feed him &     I’m sorry
I can’t remember that pain       anymore; how easy it is       to forget the exactness of certain
blades.  & is that       the way the body heals again       & again before entering the kingdom
of death,        trees white-garlanded       & the many women carrying water       jugs? I miss
my grandmother       who lost children young         & her memories of holding them
dead, they were so       luminous, she said,     daylight just gone.    The soul’s homeland
nameless. Now,       their bones all braided together          yellow tulips shake dirt loose.


originally published in Gigantic Sequins

Nicole Rollender

—1st Place Winner of the Previously Published Prize—

A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press), and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal, Princemere Journal, and Ruminate Magazine, and her work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, and Ninth Letter, among many other journals. Nicole is managing editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal, and holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University. She’s also co-founder and CEO of Strand Writing Services. Visit her online: