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



He found the calf bone in the cornfield
past the quiet barn – filled with dust-

covered clocks, chair frames, what bird skulls
make of wings. Grandfather, unfazed, cradled

bullet in bone. I’ve found another, and bagged it
in the shed. The first time, us stretching the field

into mountain, the beginning of slow, our bodies’
drifts on thick horses at twilight, green as the souls

of peat bogs. The dead don’t speak. They curl in
bog mud, arranged by hanging for adultery.

Curved twigs woven through her rib-wreath, what
remains rising in the mud. Death is everywhere.

Two earthed skeletons hold finger bones
over his pelvis, bracelets still on wrists. Here,

the barn found a solider, his buttons and spoons
intact. The dead don’t speak. As darkness into fog,

doors open, single bones between rocks,
between speaking their names for the last and after.

Die untethered into. Someone lingers between goldenrod
and fence, his hand out to the lamb, its mouth opening

to what strange, delicious flower he offers.

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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