A Catalog of Marriage

You still don’t know I went to a psychic the first month after we married
to see if I should stay—a lifetime suddenly felt like a drowning,

me looking up through water at your face distorted by waves & a shimmer
of light on your cheekbones, as if we were meeting at the altar for the first

time: not as the man who’d trim my bangs, push an enema into my backside,
hold my head above the toilet after another night of binge drinking

that would take me years to stop. The psychic asked if I knew what only you
meant—if I knew, I should hand you my heart. Even if you broke it over

& over, it would be seeds breaking soil season after season, the filigree
of stems the script you inscribed on my ring, only you. The body’s clairvoyance,

when you knew our daughter first inhabited me before I called with the test
results. You drove home in a lightning storm to bring me dark chocolate.

Now, it’s so many years later, our life together a series of paintings: bleeding through
a second pregnancy, another premature baby, my hair growing from the base

of my neck till past my waist, your hands wound in my thick braids when your
grandfather died, the July hailstorm mowing down your mammoth sunflowers right

after, you teaching our son to skip rocks across a lake at the park, me trying to forget
my rabid nights of drinking tequila to quiet what I still can’t forgive myself for,

hunting spirits in Gettysburg’s fog fields where you believe I can see the flick
of a ghost horse’s tail and a young soldier’s hand rising from behind breastworks,

driving in our fireball red muscle car deep into the woods where we find a cemetery,
white ribbons tied into the branches above the century-old stones. When we lit

the blue candle in front of the Blessed Virgin statue after our vows, you said, it’ll never
be enough time together
, which I didn’t fully understand. Even now, I ask you

the difference between leaving & returning, your hand on my back at 3 a.m.’s witching
hour & when I wake to an empty bed from one dream of longing, oil lamp gleaming

from a window overlooking a wilderness & the shape of your hands pantomiming
a monster on the wall for a bedtime story. Our marriage—a night bridge littered

with sticks, mud & stones over a roaring river we can’t see, yet two gray doves
nested in ivy away from the wind, four eyes like a thousand eyes sleeping

in a lull of black dew & an immense farewell when we cross over that I’ll never
be ready to say to you.

A 2017 NJ State Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from Palette Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal and Ruminate Magazine. Her work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill Journal and West Branch, among many other journals. Nicole holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University.

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1 Response to A Catalog of Marriage

  1. laurastamps says:

    What a beautiful story and poem! So much said in so few words. Loved it from beginning to end. Outstanding!!

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