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 Prayer, as Ghost

I wave at the blackbird just lifting from the crab apple

tree. I’m among


the flightless, the left-behind. An opossum curled
behind this tree


stump, dead, half-buried, its fur soft as ash. Everything
is the ghost

of something else. The starlings’ wings half-stab air,
you leaving.

The opossum’s eye, its last glitter—a gravedigger

lifts his shovel. I ate

peaches this morning. Dropped their pits mindlessly
onto the kitchen floor.


Their gravities also pulling me closer to the earth’s core.
Their gravities reminding me

I’m flightless. Though an angel once in church’s nativity play,
where I had glittery wings,

that I wished were waxed to my bare back, I can’t
lift off the ground.


If I jump, for an instant I separate from the dirt I’m anchored
to—before I’m pulled back,

I see a ghost, it’s my hands making the shape of a cross,
of a bloodied rag falling

from my hand, blackbirds crowding the window sill,
bread scattered: Come closer,





No one asks where you’ve come from,
what shimmering constellation of bones
and fear hold you together,
or what you’re trying to hold quiet
in your tongue. No one asks if you’re sick
of living like a flower in your mother’s hair.
No one asks if you ever watch your death
coming, like light that’s supposed
to have traveled here to your room
from such a great distance. No one asks
when you tired of desire and getting
inside another woman’s skin, unfurling
your fingers in hers to touch her neck.
No one asks if you’ve thought about
grabbing the braid of the woman
next to you on the train, and cutting it
off, what it would feel like to unleash
her. No one asks when you stopped
being afraid of your drunk father breaking
your records. No one asks what’s burning
underneath your lungs, what you’ve
buried there under dirt, because it’s so
quiet now, even you sometimes forget
its flare. No one asks when it will
kill you.







I bought part of you. Funny how your hair’s spidery
roots braided and knotted are stronger than your place

here on earth. Hair like smoke around my wrist.
Yet, there was some brilliance around your skull.
The kettle’s caterwaul, you whistling for a black horse
to escape. This impermanence is one sip of salt

water at a time, unknotting what’s meant to survive.
I’m a woman who’s not ashamed to die. Wild in your eyes,

said the man I married. I learned to say husband—held

its strangeness in my mouth, bit its bridle that tamed me
into lowering my head, mare walking in mist, spine a slow
twist. This is why I wanted to become a sky inside of you.
Because we die. Witch-flowered girl born with a caul,
I’m still here. I stuck myself with pins—we fear we won’t

ever be again. You recited the names of saints. Or maybe
we’re afraid we will survive. You once refused his hand
in marriage. Your body hinged like a door. The children
of God last forever
, the minister said. Air through a reed.

I’ve found you, named your gathering, cowbells, bag
of seed pearls, so perform the miracle of unhexing
this hair. I move among felled beasts. Yellow eyes close.
Hiss of foliage outside. It’s time to crawl out of my body.
I’m tired of singing one last bar with the harmonium—
your voice’s creation myth, wander in me, a midnight

bell in a terrible field
. There’s no time to put myself
back together in this snow season: Undressed,
I follow your tiny hoof marks till they disappear.


Hear these poems aloud:


Nicole Rollender’s work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe Journal, THRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, was published by ELJ Publications in 2015. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications, 2007), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio, 2015), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She has received poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine and Princemere Journal.

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Fox Frazier-Foley is author of two prize-winning poetry collections, EXODUS IN X MINOR (Sundress Publications, 2014) and THE HYDROMANTIC HISTORIES (Bright Hill Press, 2015). She is currently editing an anthology of contemporary American political poetry, titled POLITICAL PUNCH (Sundress Publications, 2016) and an anthology of critical and lyrical writing about aesthetics, titled AMONG MARGINS (Ricochet Editions, 2016). Fox is Founding EIC of Agape Editions, and co-creator of the Tough Gal Tarot.

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