You are 9 & living
in New Jersey & you are at Six Flags
somewhere in the last stretch of summer. You are super
sweaty & the lines are long at the log flume ride
& the waterpark section won’t be built until 1999
but somehow this is still way cooler than Seaside Heights
& your parents buy you a purple plastic grape-
shaped sippy cup that comes filled with some sort of juice
plus a green straw & you say, This is the best it gets.
& they laugh and buy you another & another—
& you will never feel so un-thirsty.
You have taken this moment out
of its container so many times—
kneaded it into each decade of longing.
You mourn how distorted the transfer has become,
how much dust it’s collected, how many fragments get lost
with each break, how it has melted now in a synapse
somewhere under your regrets,
how you never had to ask,
how it hasn’t shattered,
how you are still holding on to the straw,
how you have never made anyone feel that good.
The following poem is not for a sensitive audience
I turned thirteen
right before the Russian cab driver tried to kidnap
Mom and me after a fashion show at the Empire State Building.
I turned thirteen right before my Grandpa Walter died
and I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral,
after my Mom told me they weren’t for kids.
I turned thirteen right before we moved from NJ to CT midway
through seventh grade. I turned thirteen before my Grandma Kitty
moved in with us— She played Monopoly and Hearts with me
after I helped her make pierogies. And we watched General Hospital
every day after school while Dad and Mom worked. I turned
and roller skated up and down my street hoping to find
some friends. I was thirteen and still playing with my Barbies
on the orange-tiled bathroom floor. I turned thirteen right
before I was chased by a man down a dark flight of stairs
in the Meatpacking District after a go-see for a Breck Shampoo commercial.
When I was thirteen, I told two kids on my bus I used to model in NYC
and they told everyone else. I turned
thirteen right before Steven grabbed my thick waist-
length braids on the way to woodworking class
and wouldn’t let go. Turned before the sleep paralysis
and panic attacks left me unable to speak. Turned before I peed
my pants in Mrs. Hogan’s class after I was too afraid to raise my hand. Turned
right before I named a decomposing cat at my bus stop. I
had turned thirteen and Mom never told me about periods,
so I thought I had cancer– Hid
my underwear until I didn’t have anymore. I turned
before Shelly told me my ass looked fat in my Jordache jeans. I turned
before the boys in Mr Shelberg’s Block 8 asked me to play the prostitute for the group project.
I turned thirteen right before I made my Dad drive me to school in his white Plymouth Reliant.
I was thirteen and too afraid to ask my mom for a bra.
Thirteen and never took my puffer jacket off at school. Thirteen
and stopped brushing my hair. And I turned and I turned
and before long the rat’s nest began to burgeon in the back of my head.
Right before I turned thirteen—
a photographer posed me in the bathtub in his wife’s sheer green top.
Victoria Nordlund is a Dodging the Rain regular. Her poetry collection Wine-Dark Sea was published by Main Street Rag in 2020. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee, whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Chestnut Review, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Visit her at VictoriaNordlund.com
One thought on “Victoria Nordlund, Decades of Longing”
My name is Chris Pellizzari. We’re both frequent contributors to Dodging the Rain and we’ve both published at Gone Lawn, Counterclock, Eunoia, Open: A Journal of Arts and Letters, and a few other places. I just wanted to let you know I too am a teacher and suffer from anxiety/panic attacks and I enjoy your work.