The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cleave by Tiana Nobile

This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Cleave by Tiana Nobile, released by Hub City Press in 2021. 

Operation Babylift

            “We bucket-brigade-loaded the children right up the stairs into the airplane.”
                        – Col. Bud Traynor, pilot

April 4, 1975

Skin still wet with mother’s grief.
I brought my baby to them,
I admit it.

Airlift Takes Off

Tucked in cardboard and stowed.
Two to each seat.

At 23,000 Feet Systems Fail

In the event of being born
in a country ravaged by war –


I heard rumors that mixed babies
would be burned alive. Retaliation
for consorting with the enemy.

Split Cables

Save – Rescue – Liberate


I asked about the papers. How
will I find her? How will we reunite
in America?

Skids in Rice Paddy

In the event their skin is soaked in gasoline –


Those who didn’t fit
would make the trip
in the cargo area.

Crosses Saigon River

Under the circumstances,
the evacuation became necessary –

Thrashes Trench

The promise of reunion
too appealing to pass up.

Fractures in Four

Jam-packed flock, throng of new bones.

Fuel Ignites

It was no longer a choice.

Fifty Adults

The only option.

& Seventy-Eight Children

Tiana Nobile is the author of CLEAVE (Hub City Press, 2021). She is a Korean American adoptee, Kundiman fellow, and recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and Southern Cultures, among others. She lives in Bulbancha, aka New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

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