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

For Anna Bess Williams
Grief wakes me, insists I play your voicemails
in the bathroom in the middle of the night.
I think I hear your name each time I shop
for produce. All spring, the figure running
in front of me for twenty miles
is Grief. Just as it stops for water (finally
human-like), I pass it with a sense of satisfaction only to beg it
back when it vanishes. Last week a friend told me her daughter
beat the pillow where the child’s father once lay for hours
after his Savior called him home. Hers is the kind of longing
I have come to understand. For six months, I have
gotten used to the space you made between this world
and the next. Your mother tells me she remembers best
the days following delivery when you found rest
in her arms alone in the middle of a blizzard that kept
visitors at bay. Today wind claimed the letter I wrote you
the day your daughter was born, five days
before you died. That night, I drank wine, offered
a toast to you and the fragile heart that kept
going despite your doctor’s fears. Even now,
Grief reminds me of the silence behind the curtain
in your hospital room. The plaster casts of your hands
your children will live to fill. A curl
cut from your hair gently unraveling.

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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