My grandmother saw
the dead. A kind of mingle,

their stories weave
through the body,

speaking the spine: Leave            leave
net of gold   circling, lost

in water   crossing this

I know the doorway: That light
opening to a field

the size of the sea
with the same movement

where souls hang
like fruit, where women

rock bellies of delicate
bones, entire other worlds.

The departed don’t ask
to enter my body.

They just slip in,
to touch again, tea

leaves, moving water,
persimmons, alfalfa.

They string fireflies
back through my skin,

so they only
leave a tiny sting.

Once I found a female moth
dead, her white body

on my sill, dusty
eggs expelled. As I lifted

her body, the wings
tremored, as if she

gave one last push.
These babies

who came early
cusped on

that doorway,
blooming on a half-

lit pond. I saw the faces
of dead mothers

who rocked them
with webbed hands,

a pale circling
until they crossed

over into
my arms. The way

a lover
bent me under

a willow, as if
I might fall.

The way
these falterings

flare and leave a gasp
that scars,

cleave me
to this world.


My Daughter Dreams


a basket of stars that’s lowered like milk
to her window, a mother
who’ll never grow old and will always run
next to her lengthening
shadow, a country where lions
hold lambs’ heads in their jaws as they fall
asleep. Where are you, Mama? she calls in
sleep, as she dreams of green fish
that fly on top of water and songs that start
in ghosted trees and then ache over graves.

She tells me about her dreams before she’ll eat
her breakfast: You were there with me this
time in the land of giants. We killed the biggest

one, tripped him over the sky’s edge.
He fell to the earth and died.
Like we all do – we start in the clouds
as something close to the divine,
and then we’re born in someone else’s blood.

She emerged from me, a bony bird
squalling in thickets of light. She wants
what’s gone when she wakes, a red sky, a sailor’s
moon, ships crowding the shore at a forest’s
edge, a woman rising in mist, winged,
with a sword through her heart. In her dreams,
she wanders without me. How could I not
love her face, her eyes moving under lids
like water, her finger twitch and heart race?

She transforms the earth’s endless night 

to running in fields of corn, smelling grass
thrown into the air, a sheep’s low. In dreams,
does she step down into a cathedral’s crypt
to kneel next to a saint’s bones? Pray for me,
and those who are lost, as my daughter in night’s
endless river, turns in her short
life to a hummingbird,
a stone that can never burn,
a farmer who throws the seeds and knows
they will take.



NicoleNicole Rollender is assistant poetry editor at Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Radar Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Little Deaths, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio) Arrangement of Desire and Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest. She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at

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