Prayer to Be Said Before Sleep

Coming, the sound of rain. I seek consolation – all things
are passing away – I’m lonely, like a woman entangled with winter. Love,

the other side of ravage. Like how tenderly this cat licks clean what it just killed,
the architecture of a bird flying. Like the women who cover the faces of the dead,

and then wash their hands. Like how when I die, my heart’s life, all its beautiful wants, will die.
Knowing this, who has time to sleep? Should we love in a frenzy?

The urge to hurt, the urge to eat whole. Who will keep naming things
for me when I’m gone? Will these words sing themselves? Fetlock, talons, cold

orange, not-yet-asleep. If, if: You could hold my face between your hands.
Then rain, then trees falling, then birds, then black birds.

I remember the sweetness of apples.
I remember this lake in early morning, black birds circling.

Then, hay underfoot, a cradle, a mare’s breath.
What I ask for: blessings from the bees in spring, the willow trees, deep-

shadowed trout drifting, crocuses, everything that shines. Help me
live all of my questions. Who will guard my solitude now? You, with your hand

in my heart, searching for my secret wants? They say there’s an eternity
devoted to me, so why haven’t I been happy my whole life? For the Maker,

there’s no poverty: water from a stone, life growing in the old womb.
Women have sewn for centuries in morning sunlight, the lives of their hearts preserved

on darkened cloth. Their hands working against suffering on a table of flowers.
After sleep, will you row me back to this world? My tongue made anew – to say

the right things, to sing, to eat, to savor: still, the smell of night’s burning
in my hair.

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, Radar Poetry, PANK, Salt Hill Journal, Thrush Poetry Journal, Word Riot and West Branch, among others. She’s the recipient of a 2017 poetry fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, and poetry 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