The Weight of It

The lone mourning dove outside the kitchen window. Rain
spitting into the grass. My child asks for water and promises she’ll carry

her cup tight two-handed to bed, like holding a roaring ocean, seagulls
swooping and crying over it, and now, you carry me, she tells me.

This weight I carry, my child’s life in bones and flesh, all the heavy water filling
her, bends my spine. The immensity of the task, growing her. Bearing her

between days. Between fireflies, Wang Wei asked how many times the heart
needs to break in one lifetime. The way it felt to stand at a window and watch

my father kick a stray dog against the fence, past which summer bloomed, yelps
fragmenting into a shimmering sun. The way it felt to touch my child’s thumb-

sized hand through the incubator’s porthole. My uncle dead of an overdose
on his ranch in Colorado, sitting up in his leather armchair, feet resting on a bear rug,

now useless. The heart always turning on itself, a pilgrim in a vast forest. I feel
what is God moving as thunder across a field, announcing suffering like a wild

rain into which I howl and cannot be heard among. My child doesn’t know the weight
also within me – it’s a friend holding stones who sings, let’s leave this dirty life, let’s

forgo all the strife. I whisper to her how I used to eat honeysuckle flowers, the heavy,
honeyed smell so delicious I needed it inside of me. The petals pale-tasting and thin,

but the scent staining my hands forever. My child just wants to be held, carried
over shadow and through gates leading from field to darkening field. When

she was born so early, I saw the words for God’s work: distance from it is
an absence of stars. My pinkie tracing the line of her brittle face, she was a wetted

bird broken out of its egg before it was ready to breathe. She asks for much more
now, but still to be held, her head tucked under my chin. I carry this child

thinking that if I die, someone must give my remains to the birds, so that my final
act of flesh on earth sustains their flying. From my belly sprung my child,

my life bears her forward. I carry her into the backyard to say goodnight
to the moon and the bats. What I know is that there’s never enough time to render

everything right, so finally, we must give in. We say, Amen. How a dogwood’s
white flowers fall and gather tousled on the ground in a lovely surrender. So be it.

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