Monday Apr 22

NicholsonRenee2 Renée K. Nicholson is assistant professor in the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies Program at West Virginia University, the author of the poetry collection Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2014) and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine (U of Nebraska P, 2019). Renée was the 2011 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona, and her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Moon City Review, River Teeth, Midwestern Gothic, Electric Literature, The Gettysburg Review and elsewhere. Renée was awarded the Susan S. Landis Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in 2018 for her work in narrative medicine at WVU Cancer Institute.

Like a Lion, Like a Lamb

This is the part
where you say
“It was never like this.”

it always was. The rain
in West Virginia falls
as much as Seattle, maybe
more. Today wet-green & cold
only March would provide.

It could always turn slush, snow.

You say, “No,” even as I refuse
to believe it. The dog’s golden
fur caked in loose mud, shed
in long lines around the house.
The rain

a tickle throughout the day,
slow hours until they’ve tumbled
into night. This is the part

where you say,

“You were never like this.”


I always have been, exactly this:
steady rain that turns slushy,
a temporary snow right before the buds
push out from the branches.

Winter Solstice

I was born
the darkest night of the year.

Mom says,
every day after me filled with more light.

But Mom,
what if I prefer the dark?

In the light
these eyes sometimes deceive me,

of sight a kind of vision.

Better to trust
my fast-beating heart. Winters

in West Virginia
run unpredictable. Seventy degrees

during Valentine’s
& snow in April, just like the Prince song.

How did we
lose our way? The tall pines shudder—

a howling wind
echoes through the frost like a lost friend.

My bones
prefer the chill of winter to summer’s heat,

& my face,
tingling from cold, great puffs

I might swallow back whole.

Postcards to West Virginia

I left wild, wonderful.
Sometimes when I travel
through the Midwest I get
flatness headaches. Still, I have flirted
with that region so many years.

A trip to Kentucky and then Ohio,
places still in Appalachia, but not you,
I looked for your features,
drove the broken-dreams highway:
mountains stripped, shuttered motels, abandoned
equipment, a graveyard on the hillside
flanked by evergreens. I’d say, I’ll be home
soon. Did I ever leave?

Maybe I told you
I was once a dancer? It wouldn’t make much
difference. The pirouettes are gone
along with all my soaring leaps. The trees start
their burst of color: chassé, pas de bourrée,
glissade, grand jeté. Now, a certain dreamscape.

We passed your prison, your
Palace of Gold, white peacock
deceased. We passed into Pennsylvania
until we passed back into you, a fickle
lover who returns after the affairs.