Nicole Rollender

Notes: Gratitude for Still Being Alive

Yet, the ripped body, cleaned skull. Or an unutterable fluttering—is a white fir

a statue, a girl picking the Lord’s flowers without mercy? This shadow, azure horse

ridden by my grandmother’s ghost? O God, who’ll be with us until the end

of the age. For some of us, an insomniac night unfurls mazes of poppies

inside our brains—or a wall painted to look like gardens, never destroyed

under ice. I thought I never could love you as much as I loved Venice.

Tamarind bird of my heart, will God’s hands close me out? In the City of Water,

arms outstretched, pigeons landed on my shoulders and hands for seed. I never

pretended I could speak for the dead. Yet, with September’s moon, the grape

and the fig ready. Bats knit the firmament into a wild dusk. A blizzard of voices

stir up within my ribs, a language not mine. If I can make every bright plague

a prayer, or constant raise of the body’s animal music, if sleep’s a cradle

song for nightmares, can we stop our canter toward death? Dymphna, saint

of the anxious, the poet asks, what can’t be mended? Between water & morning,

bone & field, the dead unlock an apocalypse. Somewhere, Dymphna’s father

murders her over and over. See how my one life diverges to other, unexpected lives.

Poems will never raise the dead the way you desire. Yet we still have the sorrows

my daughter say fly as fairy nightingales to land on my backbone.



Nicole Rollender, a 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, 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 Palette Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal, Princemere Journal and Ruminate Magazine. 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: