Mark M CC
My son sees spirits in his bedroom. Boys with shadow faces & white eyes. Mouths opening
into silent “Os.” I ask if he’s dreaming, but he says, “No, another boy ghost sits near me, his
arms around his knees, until the others leave.” A plane & a luminescent plane. My son
stands in the hallway between, listening. He hears stories first in their voice, then tells
their memories in his. The story of the one born, then the one who died.
Demons rowdily gang—our priest ringing a sanctus bell in my son’s room. Black flies rallying
as the ting reverberates: We pray tonight that as these bells ring, may the ancient enemy take
flight. This is no ordinary bell. This is no ordinary boy. Watching him pray, my body turns
to water. This place calls spirits. My son, blue crackling bug light—they find solace in his sight.
My two grandmothers saw the dead. I’m still tethered to them here, while they float in pinkish
clouds—flowerbeds in ether. I’ve waited for celestial blossoming: It’s never that dramatic,
not a surprise bee sting as you reach in the lavender plant’s fronds. They brush a hand along
your neck—appear as light sparkles in arcing water. Murmur over my shoulder. I trace a line
of poetry in a book: The fruit of love, what is it?
I first saw spirits while I still slept in a crib. Later, I’d get kaleidoscopic migraines after a car
accident. “That’s what you mistake for ghosts,” my aunt says. Shimmering lights, lines,
stars—my brain’s electrical system misfiring. Blood vessels to my eyes constricting suddenly.
My son and I share sleeplessness. Arc of the moon trilling. One of my grandmothers materializes
in her everyday dress & homemade apron. Her body’s windows open. Light
as white anchor, otherworld song.
When my son gets scared, we pray three Eternal Rests for the visitors in his room. Blackened
window—the dark speaks in multiplying stars. “Where’s God?” he asks. My son’s name
means in God’s memory before he existed. There’s before & before we saw the after. If we
could have a memory of heaven to comfort us. We hear their voices. Then we don’t, as if they
left the next room. But they’re living on the other side.
Say: night. Say: prayer. Say: This is a world I’ve inherited. My son, your third eye keeps you
sleepless. The dead came—in organ music, in feathers undulating in shadow & light—their
mourners came and left, once in time. Show us your country. Your home, our home. My arm
outstretched, my son perched as a hooded falcon—listening as flowers fall, winter dresses
the ground, other birds leave. His heart’s field preparing for the return of joy.
A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press), and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from 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. She’s also co-founder and CEO of Strand Writing Services. Visit her online: www.nicolemrollender.com.
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