Somewhere, Another Woman Tells Her Husband Why She Doesn’t Want Another Child

The man who held me down slit my ulna—my tongue didn’t tell—& sucked out
the marrow. He devoured

me in stones, in howling.

this kind of thing happens all the time, doesn’t it, being

taken (cauterized), even

if your body is still here? A girl taken from a park
five miles from our house—her collapsed skull &

broken femurs in a dumpster. Her poltergeist dangling
from the chandelier.

The man who held me down is also
somewhere tonight, perhaps tucking his own girl into bed,


the windows, pulling shades. Showing his son a moon so bright it can hide nothing. My tongue

still laced in his belt. Its last words, O light, O rope.

Another kind of snatching— my grandmother’s poodle
stolen in 1922. Wet fur
still stuck on pilled

stockings she knotted & threw into the fireplace.
She prayed,

keeping her hands behind her back: tied.
Untying God. Because when
a child (or dog) goes missing,

you’re left with his afterimage. Buried
in sand. Her prayers
were for remembering—

the dog’s shadow on the wall,
his bark lost in rose bushes,
his water dish dry.
Don’t let me wake
thinking he’s gone (thinking
he’s here
). Let hope be a woman

unzipping her dress, an un-
flowering god—the body has corridors—the empty womb

I’m the mother
brought to her knees (these children siphoned my breath), trying to right my balance, clavicle heaving, a clothesline
in wind. I touch
the gritty ring (the body can be taken. The body can be found) they left
in the tub.

They play (faces red in leaves)

happily beyond my shadow, not knowing who watches
from the woods.

I’ll never know
their last moment

with me, as if the parting
of our bodies
in the delivery room wasn’t
already our most

binding pain.
I listen as my daughter prays the Hail Mary, blessed are you

—in the hollow where I don’t speak, I ask to take their place. Someone must be given.


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