By Nicole Rollender
I prayed to fashion something beautiful in words before
I died. My wingbones turning to dust in this world. I swept
myself up, pouring back bitterness of broken glass & ash,
fragile baby’s breath fragmenting in my son’s small hands,
& my earned wordlessness. Yet, I heard You within my depths:
“You can choose Heaven. Now, change your life.”
Unlike a cloistered monk kneeling in silence in his cell --
only the wind, the birdsong in the wind, wind’s leaves blowing
past, Your voice in all the noise & silences — disarmed, I enter the world’s
chatter again from a quiet stairwell. The sunshower falling on
a stone chapel beyond in the woods, You there --
You in light through the stained glass.
The light could radiate through me, if I opened my ribs.
This is the beginning. They say Heaven’s right there — just a few
footsteps. Your words to St. Dismas: “Today, you will be with Me
in Paradise.” The window in the monk’s cell where he isn’t
afraid to be without a night candle — warming
to the afterlife, since he knows You, luminous & sweet shadow,
look in. Trimming back prickly pampas grass in the yard --
my prayer now: “Lord, make me beautiful before I die.”
Fanning palms on the dirt, the start of my eternal poem --
my soul’s endless holiday — the anguish here. O, the water
of the beyond ready to heal my cut hands.
A 2017 New Jersey Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collections The Luster of Everything I'm Already Forgetting (Kelsay Books, 2023) and Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press, 2017), and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from Center for Interfaith Relations, Catholic Literary Arts, Palette Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal and Ruminate Magazine. Her work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill Journal and West Branch, among many other journals. She's managing editor at THRUSH Poetry Journal. Nicole holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University. Visit her online: www.nicolemrollender.com.