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,
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.
who came early
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
my arms. The way
bent me under
a willow, as if
I might fall.
flare and leave a gasp
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.
Nicole 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 www.nicolerollender.com.