Story I Tell in the Dark When I Can't Sleep by Nicole Rollender

Story I Tell in the Dark When I Can’t Sleep

Listen: My great-grandmother craved Chanel No. 5 & amaretto. She haunted Jersey City’s thrift shops,

hoarding cut-glass decanters: I inherited her desire to pass light through prisms to bloom stained glass

on walls. Twice, I unstitched myself to release a child & sewed myself up before the next one came. Her

plaster Nativity’s quiet animals’ chipped musculatures wrapped in 1960 newspaper. They can’t run away

—rawboned, they’re cloistered as I am. I want to tell you sometimes I hold poems closer than my two

children & wonder if that’s why I’ve tired of wishing to create a body that doesn’t exist. My great-

grandmother’s sorrow songs, Zal dusze sciska, serce bolesc czuje,

diminuendo, two children lost—dying across the ocean from her mother. Mother of Shined

Spoons, Mother of Simmering Soup, here we are in Jersey City, her brownstone knocked down, but her

kitchen clack and wail still loud. I smell the darkening tea leaves, tarnish & light—drink, I drink enough, enough to know I’m still a foreigner among women who don’t conjure, who can sleep at night. I

want to tell you I haven’t prayed enough lately,

I haven’t sewed up my son’s elephant with its cotton guts spilling out.

A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, 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, Ninth Letter, Word Riot and West Branch, among others. She is the associate editor of Thrush Poetry Journal and the recipient of 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