The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: How to Prove a Theory by Nicole Tong

Forget about smoking weed
with soccer players in the woods
near the Methodist church
while I said Hail Marys
and kept watch. Shifted my weight from hip
to hip as if to ask, Is this attractive?
Waited for feedback
from the shadows. Forget Mom and Dad,
you’d say. They’re some kind of crazy.
We repacked bags with the seasons.
Buried them in the backs of our closets.
Clothing and essentials in case.
Thought one morning I’d find you
long gone since
ours was a house of exits.
But when, in my sixteenth year, you watched
my slight frame get smaller
as the car pulled away
from the boarding school parking lot,
I knew what you knew: the difference
between not speaking and letting something go
unspoken. Between what actually happened
and the mythologies we tell our husbands decades
later. We say, Mom wigged out. We don’t say
the institution’s name. We can’t say,
That was the year we saw Dad pull the trigger.
I said, You’re such a bitch
when I meant Remember.
You were there.
You walked beside me each day.

This selection comes from the collection How to Prove a Theory, available from Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Order your copy here or here. Our curator for December is Krista Cox.

Nicole Tong is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sundress Academy at Firefly Farms, and George Mason University where she received her MFA. In 2016, she served as an inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright property in Alexandria, Virginia. She is a recipient of the President’s Sabbatical from Northern Virginia Community College where she is a Professor of English. Her writing has appeared in CALYX, Cortland Review, Yalobusha Review, and Still: the Journal among others. Tong received a Dorothy Rosenberg Award has been nominated for a Pushcart prize.

Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet living in northern Indiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Indianola Review, Whale Road Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among other places in print and online. She twice received the Lester M. Wolfson Student Award in Poetry, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. In her abundant spare time, Krista parents, paints, and plans community events as the Program Director of Lit Literary Collective. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about her at


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