Three Poems + An Introduction by Nicole Tong

Dickinson said, “You cannot fold a flood.” These poems present the expense of trying. It is scary when the body won’t do what you want it to. The result, many times, is an isolating silence.

Distance running, I find, is opposite of Dickinson’s folding. If I run long enough, a problem might come to the surface for long enough for me to figure it out. Most times, though, I run to remind myself what my body can do today— each breath and foot forward— is enough.


Maternal Theory

Following each low-wage paycheck
I buy one outfit for a baby I don’t have, a girl

I would name Lily. There are onesies, holiday
shirts, sweaters smocked with the cutest animals

in the kingdom. It’s unlucky to want something so
badly, scolds a friend who offers me charms

for the superstitious and freshly roasted coffee
to counter my practice. I give up

running. Try willing my once-asthmatic body
into womb. Store tiny clothes under the bed.

Sleep soundly on top of them as if whispering
a wish into fruition. Years and years I wait

for Lily to announce herself
like the trumpet of her namesake.



Pink Pill Theory

What piled up piled up
gradually. I kept steady count.

I did not need much. I did so
regularly. Practice clouded the view,

making it difficult to distinguish
things seen from things seem.



Chinook Theory

Having made gravel a kind of home

For sixty miles of footwork I imagine my father alive flying above

Each time the Park Police helicopter circles the Potomac beside the towpath

Imagine how measured the cargo when he was crew chief of a twin-engined monster

(In the seventies his silence not a Soldier’s Heart but Shell Shock)

Near Lejeune my nephew monitors wind on this side of the mountains

He texts when he suspects changing conditions

Careful Nicole a chinook may be coming by which he means wind

But such a coincidence is not geographically precise on this Appalachian stretch

A country away from the correct mountain coast

A year since I spent hours plucking feathers from my father’s hospice bed

Were it possible for a bird to rise up and greet the dead



Nicole Tong is the recipient of a Dorothy Rosenberg Prize in Poetry and fellowships from George Mason University, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her writing has been published in American Book Review, Cortland Review, Stirring, Yalobusha Review, and others. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook MY MINE in 2015. She is a recipient of the President’s Sabbatical from Northern Virginia Community College where she teaches and serves as associate editor of The Northern Virginia Review.





Featured Image: Dirt Road Nature Path from Pexels






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