person Nadia Wolnisty, three poems

Nadia Wolnisty is the submissions editor of Her work has appeared in Spry, Apogee, McNeese Review, Paper & Ink, and others. She has two chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective and Finishing Line Press and a full-length from Spartan. Her third chapbook is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.


Poem for My Fiancé

We assume the bones come first.
Houses, yes, but people too.
For houses, it is true enough. Have you
ever seen one being built? First, scaffolding
like rib cage without curve. Then,
pipes like intestines, and then insulation
like muscles and fat. It arrives in easy phases.

Humans, though, are mostly tissues first,
growing without clear delineation. My lungs
came in about twenty-eight years ago,
breathing amniotic fluid. Sheer willful
blob and then hardness. I want to love
you with all I was first, before rigidity
set in–nothing but rush and gasps that go
on for hours. But I confess a weakness
for cigarettes and my own ways.

When you are sleeping, you are still building
new silences. You build quiet all day,
like when you washed my infected cut
in the tub. How I had wanted to pick the yellow
out. Now, I breathe in your hair. I imagine
it to be alive. I imagine I am all lung.
This will give me new form and stop my
turning into a house with weeds and mailbox
with a weeks’ worth of bills. Tasting without
devouring or you ever knowing feels odd,
but what is hair but tiny bones?



A bird is not a souvenir—
but what if a postcard
that delivers itself? Something that says
I am here, and you
are not. Look closely
at what is foreign to you,
and imagine you can hear.

A swallow filled my porch light
with sticks and self. When I
forget her and turn the light on,
she’ll hop, perch on the lip,
and glare at me
for heating up her home.

I don’t know if there’s eggs
in that tangle of light and twigs,
besides the one that glows,
but my cat got a hold of a baby
to toy with and abuse. It looked
pathetic and only half
a thing, like a mangled foot
with no body. We used a shovel
to put it into the porch light,
hoping we got it right.

I know I must write the folks
who raised me a letter and tell
that I am getting married but want
to write them birds instead.
Year from now, I’ll send
a souvenir. I have gone where
you have not and brought you
something back. Put it on
your mantelpiece. Imagine
you can hear. I am careful
where I make my home;
the light shines differently there.


Down in the River

I thought I read the future, and it was water.
Even the trees here seek baptism,
down in the river. Can you follow
the roots like reading a book or palms?
At summer camp, we make wooden boxes
for our bibles, cramming pre-cut slabs together
and filling in with glue. Father Michael
places his hands on our heads and prays
we study our gospels well. I wear
his hands like a crown, eyes seeing
stars from crimping them closed.

Let me go back, show me the way
from before my unbelief. Back to
seeking redemption, like roots seek
water, slowly and innately moving,
or seeking in forced gestures, even, accepting
what someone else has cut into place,
hands turned into jigsaw puzzles from trying.
Now all my sins come in boxes,
cigarettes, birth-control, wine,
and, one day, me. (O sinner, let’s go down,
let’s go down, let’s go down.)
There will be no water. Something else
will fill my lungs when I go.
I have not yet drowned, but I will.