Nicole Ross Rollender


A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Ross 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. 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:

A Dream Where My Father Walks on Water, After He Decided to Burn His Childhood Photos

He entered my nights. Like a falcon, a steed, sure of himself, but also softly, a dove landing on balsam. Oscillations of grief. There are oranges, sunflowers, men returning from the sea, loves gone into the ground. Shouldn’t prayer show me I’m alone in the world & not alone enough? He turns to a luminous school of fish in the Seine. The water is light. The future, the color of tea. In Vietnam, a junkyard rat bit his arm. Elvis still playing on the radio. At the top of a mountain in Saigon, under bone stars, he wished for cherries, the scent of wet bark. He draws graffiti behind my eyes. Orange orchard. Travel light. Sarcophagus. Unshrouds his body to show me his operation scars. The cornea from a dead man. He wanted to be a carp to outswim his future. He knew he’d never see his home again. His face is my face. He wanted to be the gray tornado he watched rupturing houses on the next street, rather than go inside for another beating. He still dreams of Vietnam. Now I dream of war, but without sound. But smoke in my father’s hands. The lunar eclipse. I dream of the soldier threatening to kill him with a 12-inch knife. But that night the soldier died from a lightning strike, his body crumpled on the knife on a hill. My father says if he was killed, I wouldn’t have been born. God’s country drowns in my father. My father shows me the place his feeding tube went in, the shallow under his ribs.

My first poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, includes many poems about my daughter and grandmother, who died at 97 a week before my daughter was born. I’ve written about other family members, like my mother and son. However, I haven’t written many poems about my father. One day, he told me he planned to burn all of his childhood photos, which I had never seen. When I write about family, I become a witness to their story. That line sparked this poem, and some of the memories he shared with me.