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

The only time I’ve held a gun,
I stood in the woods of western Carolina
with Anna’s father the summer
following her death. I gathered stories
for her mother. Put on a Storm Trooper mask
barely big enough for my head for the amusement
of her son. Agreed to a lesson in country living
without changing my blue silk shift and purple
Mizunos for Joe. Surprising was the Remington’s
weight, the .22. My target, a twin gallon bucket box
and the number two he invited me to kill before the first
fired bullet pierced the cardboard with a certainty
like death. Joe collected the shell
while I examined the digit’s hollowed hook.
Three times today I have passed the folded flag
a soldier delivered at my own father’s funeral.
Two salute shells. One small black matte urn
of his ashes my mother wanted for me. I recall
the echo of the rifles’ final round so much
like my father: the volley I could feel coming, still
reason enough to flinch.

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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