The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Absence of Stars” by Nicole Rollender



The lake deep stains
with water lilies. Marsh grass

wants float – where we always return.
Father, blind in one eye,

sinks under moon drift and leaf fall.
What chartless world he’ll enter tomorrow

is flowers lingering closed at night,
dead by week’s end. Is sight

enough? He follows the man walking
a red mountain path toward a village,

where a woman holds a cradle of bread,
his reckoning at the gate. What man will emerge?

What we need (joy into remembering) passes
away, a well of fasting, what’s alone creating

streets of paper lanterns and bells underwater,
the lilies falling to seeds. Another kind

of palimpsest: A mossed deer skull
stippled with evening rain licks salt

from his palm, opening to fog, to opening.

This selection comes from Nicole Rollender’s collection Absence of Stars available now from Dancing Girl Press. Purchase your copy here.

Nicole Rollender’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe Journal, Memorious, THRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, was published by ELJ Publications in 2015. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications, 2007), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio, 2015), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She has received poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Ceasura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.


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