Jovi Schnell, Push Pull (acrylic flashe, and cell vinyl on canvas), 2016

When I hold my onion grass scented hand out
            to my daughter, walking the night hall
toward her bed, I want to be the small daughter again,
            not remembering what lives past the dark:
how our days become something to fight for
            & over, face in a pond distorting
when your child throws a stone in, when light halves
            your shadow, how each day you grow
smaller & yet bigger to your daughter whose tight
            hand clasp says, Mama, I can’t live
without you
. A woman in a Wonder Woman T-shirt posts
            photos from all her dog’s birthdays—shirt’s
screen print cracked, dog growing bigger, older.
            Gray bearded. I cry at the last photo, woman
alone, holding a red collar. “She was the dog
            of my 40s,” she wrote. “It was a good run.”
I cry after we fell a cracked tree in our yard,
            counting its rings. 62 years, the oak sprouting
when Elvis sang his mother’s blues—another
            good run. I cry about these raging days
my children inhabit: men crucify & bomb
            in a savage god’s name. Seven gates, seven
angels, seven sins, seven lights (my mother
            believes we’re in end times). The problem
I’m having, why I cry so much, is all the differences
            between what you remember & what’s there,
laughing ghosts from an older life. Why
            my daughter won’t pack her plush Christmas
elves—that ever green place, candlelit, great-
            grandma’s glass ornaments, babka, the legend
of three laughing monks, dragon’s breath
            & stars flowering from their belts, arriving
in a village of unrest. Walking the streets,
            their old laughter bells & heals, bells & heals
sorrow between brothers. I cry at National Geographic’s
            show following a pride, one scene where
hungry lions force a young elephant to her
            knees, one lion straddling her back, biting
the spine: her screams for more days, for her mother
            who does not come. As all stories go, one monk
dies in his sleep—the other two still laughing as they
            prepare his body & light it on fire—hidden
fireworks streaking out of his robe. His body as beacon
            & gutted song.  This poem melting onto your
outstretched tongue.


Nicole Rollender