Sharon Kennedy-Nolle

That Night

I was writing a poem
when you waded in.

Panicked, broken-legged, I couldn’t move much
beyond furious scribbles, a draft wrung dry
to distract me from the news that you were missing.

Chris was sleeping it all off in the next room.
Where might you be hiding? What train out might you board?
The rain surely would deter
any direction you could take toward the dam.
(I didn’t know yet about the notes.)

Still, inside I knew
as if I’d swallowed a stone,
knowledge lodged, burnished more sure
with each hour coming up bucket-empty.

The waters eventually broke
with your soaked body,
as mine did twenty-two years ago,
tidy to the day
when you were born,
which was on Epiphany:
old men before the newborn.

From that draft this poem surfaces
—of what I did not then know
and now must know—
the babied differences between

you alive, you dead
both helpless
all waterlogged.


Madeleine and the Big Fucking Idea

When you heard he had left you a note,
you started hounding me,

while he was still missing,
as we lingered by the water’s edge, searching

for clues under stones, in the lapping,
since the detectives swore, “They always take their shoes off…”

After he had surfaced,
you didn’t let up, desperate for his phone, a shirt he had worn in

that you had given him,
any soggy details the undertakers had scissored off.

Texts, emails, late-night calls
commanding, “It’s my right; I need to see it!”

I couldn’t help but wonder
what you feared from the grave.

Sniffing culpability in the whiff of your Chanel,
your mascaraed winks, fuchsia jodhpurs

I was sus you knew more
than you let on, dropping hints

about rumored animal tortures, naked selfies,
tabloid tattles I couldn’t begin to conceive

about my son,
except to think maybe, just maybe

you found despair entertaining enough
to have goaded him on,

coaxing with crumbs strewn
right up to the reservoir’s edge…

“What’s the big fucking idea?
Lots of amazing people committed suicide, and they turned out all right.
I knew you for a month.
Sing, you mute angel of music”

was all you got.

© Sharon Kennedy-Nolle

Sharon Kennedy-Nolle holds an MFA in poetry from the Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Iowa.  Chosen as the 2020 Chapbook Editor’s Pick by Variant Literature Press, Black Wick: Selected Elegies was published in 2021.  Her full-length manuscript was chosen as a 2021 finalist for the Black Lawrence Press’s St. Lawrence Book Award and as a 2021 semifinalist for the University of Wisconsin Poetry Series’ Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes. Kennedy-Nolle was winner of the New Ohio Review’s 2021 creative writing contest. She lives and teaches in New York.

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