The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Not Flowers by Noreen Ocampo

This selection, chosen by guest editor Katie Manning, is from 
Not Flowers by Noreen Ocampo, released by Variant Lit in 2022.


There’s sliced cheese in the fridge,
underneath the avocados I’ll forget about.

You can make sandwiches
until you’re tired & you don’t have to ask

how many you’re allowed.
I want you to be like me. I want

you to have reasons to live. Maybe two
of those reasons are sandwiches

& cheese. Maybe our people
are watching from heaven & horrified,

or watching from the living room
& disappointed, but

we can also boil elbows al dente
& grate a block of whatever else is hiding

in the fridge. & maybe old-style mustard,
maybe peas. Third & fourth reasons.

Maybe we weren’t meant to
be making mac & cheese fancy, or at all

& that’s why it doesn’t
turn out right. Or maybe my gaze

over your shoulder is what’s curdling
the sauce & I should step back

& trust that you know
what color the flame should be.

Noreen Ocampo is a Filipino American writer and poet from metro Atlanta. Her collection Not Flowers won the 2021 Variant Lit Microchap Contest, and her work can also be found in Palette PoetrySundog Lit, and Depth Cues, among others. She holds a BA in English from Emory University and currently studies poetry in the MFA program at The University of Mississippi, where she is working to document and elevate stories of Filipino Americans in the Deep South.

Katie Manning is the author of Hereverent (Agape Editions), Tasty Other (winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award), and six chapbook collections, including How to Play (Louisiana Literature Press) and 28,065 Nights (River Glass Books). Her poem “What to Expect” was featured on the Poetry Unbound podcast, and her poems have appeared in HAD, Poet Lore, SWWIM, Stirring, Thimble, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Katie is the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University.


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