By Nicole Rollender

Behind my father’s house, the lake is stained
with floating water lilies, where deep marsh grass smells

like want. Where we’re always returning. Swan wings extended,
a flash of white and water. My father, now blind in one eye,

doesn’t know what chartless world he’ll enter tomorrow.
These flowers, here now, will die by week’s end. I understand why at night

they close so slowly, sinking under moon drift and leaf fall. He watches
a snapping turtle cross the lake, a slow, even trailing – its weighted body

knows how to cross waters, unsinking. Yet, my father’s journey
still ripens. Unmoored, he walks the yard, seeking the self

who has already walked up the mountain path toward a village,
its gate festooned with red flags and bells. And a woman holding a wash

basin filled with oil and flowers, a bread basket. He creates and creates
these streets, hung with paper lanterns, windows open, fountains flowing

with the passage of time. From the gates, what man will emerge?
Will he always wonder how his life was chosen for him?

Underwater, the lilies’ stalks will curl up, submerging and holding
the pollinated flower heads. As something beautiful dies,

it makes another kind of rapture: From bees’ flight, the flower petals
browning into thick seed pods (oh, the memory of their fragrance) will burst

into the lake, the old lily falling apart and drifting. His chance
for survival is remembered joy: Live your life as if pulling from a well

inside yourself. For you are alone, and within you is all of your past
and all of what will come. Live your depths over and over with gratitude.

Behind the shed, he finds a deer skull resting on moss, stippled
with evening light, and then rain. Here now, he’s swept away,

swept away.

“The Forms of Seeking” appears here with permission from the poet.

Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of Stars (forthcoming July 2015, dancing girl press & studio), Little Deaths (forthcoming November 2015, ELJ Publications) and Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications). She is the recipient of CALYX Journal’s 2014 Lois Cranston Memorial Prize, the 2012 Princemere Journal Poetry Prize, and Ruminate Magazine’s 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize for her Pushcart Prize-nominated poem “Necessary Work,” chosen by Li-Young Lee. Her poetry, nonfiction and projects have been published or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Creative Nonfiction, Radar Poetry, Ruminate Magazine, PANK, Salt Hill Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. She received her MFA from The Pennsylvania State University, and currently serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches Magazine, which recently won a Jesse H. Neal Award.

Editor’s Note: I suggest you curl up with today’s poem as you would with a good book. Read and reread until its thick layers enfold you. Read once for sound. For music and alliteration. Read once for story. For the father and the momentary windows that open into his life. Read once for structure. For form. Then read several times for beauty. Because “As something beautiful dies, // it makes another kind of rapture.” Because this poem wants you to “Live your life as if pulling from a well // inside yourself.” Give this poem enough of yourself to discover all that it offers in return. Then go forth and “Live your depths over and over with gratitude.”

Want more from Nicole Rollender?
Nicole Rolldener’s Official Website
Heron Tree
Quail Bell Magazine
Hermeneutic Chaos


  1. ‘~~~survival is remembered joy. Live your life as if pulling from a well inside yourself. For you are alone, and within you is all your past and all of what will come.~~~gratitude.’
    Definitely a tear-jerked. ‘How long will this grieving last’ she asked the Zen Poet? ‘As long as it takes,’ the poet answered. ‘Best to be in gratitude for it all (i said that).’


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