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. 

‘Lost’ first languages leave permanent mark on the brain, new study reveals

To experience the world muffled
through the wall of skin
is like wearing earmuffs
while deep sea diving.
Cacophony of whalesong
and sunken earthquakes,
tonal pitches seep in.


How do I translate
the sound of my mother’s
moaning? It’s a soft wail
I hang on the wall
of my windpipe.


They say the circulatory system
is the first to develop
in an embryo.

That the body generates cells
to divide and multiply, to form
a swelling ball.

That your blood weaved and whirled
to become my blood.

Who was the first you told?


At week eleven, fingernails begin to appear.
I bet you didn’t know that nails
are made of dead blood cells.
How something could grow inside you
that’s both alive and dead.


Once I learned how to talk, I did not
stop. I drew blood and licked my teeth
with language, English spilling down my chin.

Later, I learned how words can wound
without touching, and I tucked myself
in a bed of silence.

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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