Nicole Danser, Selected Poems

{ T h i s   i s   H o w   I   R e m e m b e r }

I think our genes are encoded with impulses to preserve the remarkable.

As seconds grow, the body switches on-realizes it’s vital to remember;

So the brain presses the record button. Through this instinct, I am certain that

anyone who has ever held a small bird can recall the details of the moment.

The creature’s velvet aerodynamics, the hollow bones, the beating heart, the chirp.


Other memories are formed by routine. I am thinking of hand dryers and sinks

placed right beneath massive mirrors so that I stare into my own eyes for minutes

as automatic faucets spray fingers or tepid air wicks away the water

from my perpetually cracked hands. I’ve memorized the marks of my iris.

Navigated the vines grown in my soul. I know my eyes better than my lovers’.


There are branding iron memories too. The ones I’ve forced myself to remember;

Borrowing my first love’s deodorant to roll it on a page of my journal-

a scrawled caption: “this is what he smells like”. Looking back, my insides flinch and tense up.

It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever done. And Old Spice Fiji is not a rare scent.

Still, I will find myself turning my head as a stranger passes me on the street.


Then there are memories like traps, like snags. A burner flicking on, a shoulder tap.

The ones so impossible to hide from. Seeds that blossom when you bury them deep.

That regrow when you burn them to their roots. With a color more vibrant than before.

Sometimes the only thing to do is fence off part of the garden for these memories.

You do not have to water this ground, but maybe you can pick the flowers one day.

{ O n   t h e   T o p s   o f   T h i n g s }

One night, the moon was an orange slice resting on a distant hill.

We shouted to stop the car, so the car pulled to the side of the road. We stumbled out and gazed, awe struck.

Maybe this image appears every night, but the moon near the horizon is a rare sight– usually scraped from the sky.

Compelled to howl at the citrus satellite, our wildness was stifled by the politics of politeness.

A house nearby. A house nearby with people inside it but oh how we needed to howl and gnash and stomp our feet. Instead, we quietly awoo’d, eyes like magma. Eyes like sparklers, eyes holding a horn quartet inside.


Once I climbed a mountain in the middle of  autumn to hold incense to the moon-drowned sky.

I hardly smelled the masala of scents floating around the bouquet of the cold.

We read poetry up there, because what else would we do? Well, howl at the moon. So we did.

Everyone lay on the ground and watched as the stars seemed to move fast past our eyes.

I made a comment about it, but it was only an echo of a faster mouth on the mountain.

I don’t remember how I left the mountaintop in the dark, but I did, and everything was downhill from there.


At the end of sophomore year, three of my drunk best friends climbed that same mountain with me.

I filmed them lighting sparklers, waving light around like they were triumph symbolized. French revolutionized.

Just now I realize I’ve kissed each of them on the mouth. One freshman year, one sophomore, one junior and senior.

So fond of my friends, I would kiss them on the mouths all over again. They were the kindest lips I’ve ever kissed.

The girl with heavy eyelids and wavy raven hair. The boy who couldn’t stop smiling. The man who droops his head to one side like an outdoor plant placed in a kitchen. Oddly enough, I have never kissed anyone on that mountaintop.


I have had to count how many trees were on that mountain in the dead of winter. Fingers frozen, gloves wet from breaking falls, I had to stick my pink hands into my mouth to warm them up. During the Spring, I have watched Liz, our savior, light a fire on the side of the mountain while we shivered in darkness. I have forced Mike, our martyr, to pee on its embers because we forgot to bring enough water to douse it. Poor guy.

I’ve filmed scenes on the mountain, have written poetry at its crest. The first time I climbed it freshman year was with a stranger mid-winter, midnight, because our initial adventure to break into the bell tower was foiled.

Once I climbed the mountain alone at 3 am on a weekday for a lunar eclipse. I stayed for an hour and saw nothing but the city lights bounce between the clouds and the pavement.


I hear that the dawn before graduation, the seniors scramble up the mountain to see the sun rise,

all dirty and draining drunk from the night before. That’s why they all wear sunglasses to the graduation ceremony.

I hear that last year it was too foggy to see the sun rise, and the year before that, the day was a drizzling mess.

This year, I demand us to be Icarus aflame. All burnt up, out and crashing down from the mountain onto the stage.

Under graduation robes should be crop tops and jean shorts, sweat charging out from pores. Popsicles in our mouths.

The day, hot as magma. Our eyes like sparklers, letting horn quartets explode from our lips.

{ O d e  to  t h e   W i  n t e r   C r e a t u r e}

Outside, it can only lumber. Shedding skin every time it comes indoors,

an entire shrine is dedicated to it. Poultices, lotions, oils, salves;

bottles crowded on tables. Its entire body is a desert

that snows with friction upon the scuffed hardwood floor;

We cannot get too far from the flakes of the winter creature.


Records pop and crackle,

collaborating with the radiator’s work

to supplant the fireplace.

Music heats rooms as bodies

turn and caper

in relatively syncopated motions.

Though whiskey keeps tongues wet

and stomachs glowing fireballs,

everything is dry here;

And we cannot get far from

the aridity that makes

the winter creature.


On the stool nakedly presenting itself, in front of the sinkhole couch,

a documentary suspends a false window overlooking the tundra, hovering

in the middle of the room. “Now that’s a real dog, those are real dogs”

becomes a mantra as the Siberian huskies strangle sables and fly through

hundreds of miles of snow; We cannot get too far from the windows

that house the winter creature.

{ M e l t   D a y }

It’s kind of a Chamber of Commerce day,

with the sun in the sky and the snow on the ground.

The light from the library windows slip through open blinds

to stripe the wooden tables. Outside, clay-breasted birds

search for seeds in the slush. I catch myself humming.


Dawdling away the morning, Jack and I sit on the steps of Hathorn.

We present our situation as idyllic enough for a college brochure

and thus capture the attention of the resident photographer.

“It’s almost nice enough to do what we’re doing” Jack states

as we suddenly have to feign the casual aspect of our lounging

to the tune of camera shutters. “Can I use that quote?” Phyllis asks.


Finally, the residence’s flat screen televisions are not their best window views.

There are birds flying in sine waves past glass panes

and I notice remnants of words etched on the linoleum table,

a graphite phantom of the morning’s crossword. I’m going slowly today,

and I’m not afraid to close my eyes when I find a patch of sunlight.


I decide to break in my new doc martins halfway through the day.

Putting them on, I realize it is first time in months

that I’ve sat down to tie my shoes. I stare at them;

cranberry red, with roses blooming from my ankles to my toes.

I could step on the snow-mixed mud

and bring forth the spring in my steps.

{ T h i n k i n g   a b o u t   B r e a k f a s t   i n   B e d }

The susurrus of Sunday morning sleep:

Your sheets becoming mine then yours then mine.

Left body bare and right, a swaddled heap.

Hyperbolas in sleep lie spine to spine.


We know there are people starting their days

they may have started them hours ago

but the morning sun doesn’t have strong rays

and we will not leave bed if we see snow


If we step heavily the guitar hums

If whispers turn to words that reach the door

then the morning flees, the afternoon comes.

We hush each other as feet hit the floor.


Sunday mornings are rather seductive

so slow, so tender, so unproductive.