NJ Poetry Series: ‘Between Our Names’ by Nicole Poko

Poetry from NJ writer Nicole Poko in our March edition.

My mother’s hands are inside of my hands
And I can feel it most when I’m rearranging the furniture or adjusting the thermostat.
My sisters hands are the same and they say they speak to my grandmother’s ghost
when they set the dining room table.

From the day I was born my mother was mourning her mother’s death
A decade of practicing rituals to keep her alive
Made her hands too worn out for soft cradling and lips too bittered for kisses
So she practiced the rituals of my grandmother’s ways.

Our hands learned to hang art without a level.
Reupholster, rearrange, reduce a sauce, repot the flowers.
My grandmother’s sewing machine only left the dining
room table when guests came over for dinner.

She was a homemaker but not a housewife.
My grandfather’s wife but not his lover, a secret I discovered.
It wasn’t her barbershopped haircut or the grinning ways
my mother and aunt spoke of her close girlfriends.

It’s the way secrets are held between pages of a book
like a keepsake cloth that disintegrates with death.
And how the air is the only keeper of the breaths
taken in ecstasy, and then vanish moments later.

When I was ten I dreamt I knocked on her bedroom
door. When she opened it she draped a lace veil over me and
told me that it was made from the strongest threads in the world.
that I would not need it for a wedding

that the veil was mine to use for games.
I awoke a child inside of a woman’s body.
Soft hips with laced stretch marks that felt like the silk of an egg.
And a new ritual, how to tuck secrets inside the dovetails of life’s story.

Nicole Poko (she/her) is a NJ-native and owner of a café tucked onto a Main Street in a small town in Hunterdon County, NJ. She has a BFA from Montclair State University in Visual Arts and completed a post-graduate program at School of Visual Arts in multidisciplinary art. 

We want to publish your poetry and short fiction (up to 1,000 words) in the next issue (and subsequent issues) of NJ Indy. Send up to three submissions to Poetry Editor Kayla Harris at poetry@njindy.com, and we’ll consider them on a rolling basis for monthly publication.