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


My mother packs two suitcases
On my behalf straps me
Into the front seat
As if I were a child
Two hours into the trip home
My hand reaches for the radio dial
Tries to build a haven of noise
In college a girl learns conviction
Learns to call her peers women
In stark contrast
To the way I see myself
Age seven
Still in the mirror
Of the kerosene heater
Blue nightgown with a gentle pattern
Of flowers my small frame
Leading up to neck
It was the middle of the night
The machine’s heat pushed
Against me
Certainly my body
Was the calm
That made requests quietly
So as not to cause alarm

My first kiss was from a girl
With curly hair
Can’t remember
Her name I remember
Getting ready for a dance recital
From the communal bathroom
Of the shelter for women and children
The sheen of tights against the back
Of my thighs
Believing that
Kiss aged me
It’s spring again
The collegiate mind hinges
On facts
Though my jaw would not
Unlock itself no
Surely made its way out
Of my mouth not once
But twice
This is not the way
I replay it happening
This is the way
That word lives
Daily I choose
To practice it
Or to leave it behind

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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