Ghost Tongue // Nicole Rollender

Ghost Tongue is a stunning blend of bone, blood, and haunting. It’s as much about what we inherit as what we carry inside to carve out and give, palm up, and the traces that linger even after a piece is gone. It’s about body and salt, absence, sweet things and marrow. It’s the ghost that speaks, the hunger that slips in. (Porkbelly Press, 2016) | available in our shop



The sheep assemble: the near-dark: their hooves knocking on dirt: they look for the dead: rise and walk: knock, barefoot: spiriting baskets of clover and forbs: across fields, this man I pass: his face reminds me of my first lover: I still belong to myself: in cemeteries I ask how to die well: to part kindly with the women I’ll never become: the ewe lies down the same way: whether birthing or dying: she doesn’t call to her departed mother as a lost woman might: or reach for a grandmother’s hand: when her pelvis is rocked: a coming rain: tonight my name means halfway home: drowning the girl: love my spine: the moon filling my belly: light & water tessellating within: a farmhouse rising in mist: a lamb shakes in sleep: sometimes what tastes like a voice: we wake to this world in someone else’s blood: saltlick, illusive as a tongue’s mark: my wrist jangling: I’ve changed no one’s life: when you were a girl: remember knocking: because your mother hid in her room: what sounded like metal on bone: the holy: when you’re on the other side of hunger: blessed: the sainted: even so, when you’re the mother: your children’s loud hands hold your bones: they knock & knock: they’re saying: forgive yourself for each of these fractures: forgive us.

about the poet

Nicole Rollender’s first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (ELJ Editions), was published in late 2015. She’s author of the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio) and Bone of My Bone, a winning manuscript in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Memorious, Radar Poetry, PANK, Salt Hill Journal, Thrush Poetry Journal, Word Riot and West Branch, among others. She is the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Princemere Journal and Ruminate Magazine. She earned her MFA in poetry at the Pennsylvania State University, and is the editor of Wearables magazine. Find her online at


The cover is inkjet printed on premium matte paper. It’s trimmed down to just under 6 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches and bound by hand with heavy thread.

cover artist » Susan Yount
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What people are saying about this work

What breathtaking poems Nicole Rollender writes! I read her poems and feel the air sucked from my body, and if I read them again, I feel the same profound rush, the same exquisite anxiety. But don’t let the rush of this poet’s brilliance fool you into thinking she doesn’t know her craft—she works the language with precision, with imagery that is both dreamlike and exacting. To know this poet’s work is to know a certain kind of magic that leaves a reader achingly satisfied.

—Allison Joseph, author of Mortal Rewards and My Father’s Kites

‘To be holy, strip the spirit down,’ the poet says in ‘Fasting.’ How right she is! These exquisite, jewel-like poems, filled with memories, hunger, longing and light, prove yet again what I’ve long known: Nicole Rollender is one of the best poets writing today.

—Alexis Rhone Fancher, author of How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart-stab poemsand State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies

other books

Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press)
Bone of My Bone (Blood Pudding Press)
Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications)
Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio)


2017 Elgin Award Nomination