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NICOLE ROLLENDER | Novena for When My Son Says He Doesn't Want to See Spirits

Protect this boy who slid into a well-oiled world,

glossy bluegill nine weeks too soon, a touch of the mystic—

there wasn’t time to wipe the slick, the third eye’s loneliest

country from his mind. Being haunted passes down:

I know how we’re orphaned outside the mirrored gate,

finger bones looped in its lock. Holy waters, sinking shining

stones. My son knows déjà vu, already seeing his next-life as short

smartphone videos: laughing as he throws soft bread slices

to swans, their glisten alive before the sun ever hits feathers.

Star of the Sea, in this month of the eclipse, crickets lose their

way, the book of nights opening in the penumbra of my heart’s

unlit church. Will there be a new heaven and earth for us, full

of small comforts? Goldenrod, applewood, mistletoe, butter,

a golden crow and one malevolent fruit in my quiver.

My young son doesn’t understand the arrows that fly by night,

or the hooded apparitions appearing even in daylight’s song.

Despite eternity, we inherited one form of destruction. Body,

a river for the living and dead to depart in and out. A teakettle’s

familiar hymning whistle, the rabbits’ toenails clicking on our wood

floors: Among the mundane, we think of Lazarus who died twice,

of Padre Pio who can’t stop returning to sick rooms, a spirit sent

to heal our bodies during a plague. Woman Clothed With the Sun,

how far is it by boat, by ecstatic wing?

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, The Journal, and Ninth Letter, among many other journals. Nicole is managing editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal, and holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University. She’s also co-founder and CEO of Strand Writing Services. Visit her online:

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