Wine-Dark Sea / Victoria Nordlund


Wine-Dark Sea

poems by

Victoria Nordlund

ISBN: 978-1-59948-828-8, ~52 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 3, 2020

The Advance Sale Discount price expired October 23, 2020.

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Main Street Rag
PO BOX 690100
Charlotte, NC 28227-7001

Victoria Nordlund is the English department chair at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT, an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut, and lead master teaching artist at The Mark Twain House & Museum. Her creative writing programs have won major state and national awards in every genre. Nordlund was a 2016 semi-finalist for CT Teacher of the Year. She also won the 2016 New England Association of Teachers of English Poet-of-the-Year Award. Her poetry collection Binge Watching Winter on Mute was published by Main Street Rag in 2019. She is a Best of the Net and 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee, whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Gone Lawn, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. She lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut with her husband and poodle.

This book sunk me. The stunning use of syntax and the rich visual imagery keeps each poem moving, accumulating, layering in a work of magic that hides what is Nordlund’s most powerful gift, namely, an immaculate and bewildering precision “until the illusion is seamless” (“Cardistry”) and the reader does not want the show to end. Each stitch is a mastery. ~Alina Stefanescu


Vicky Nordlund’s new collection of poetry leads us to that mysterious spot all poets seek that join illusion with reality. Effortlessly, she renders dreams, myths and Gods, and gives them leave to wander into our conscious minds refreshed and anew. Nordlund punches through our well-worn deceptions with her focus on bizarre scientific explorations to show us what does and what doesn’t really exist. This is an outstanding work you will want to rediscover again and again. ~Barbara P. Greenbaum


You thought you knew everything there was to know about traversing oceans, voyager? Open Victoria Nordlund’s Wine-Dark Sea, and account yourself fascinated by these waves. In poems that catalogue, in astonishment and scientific wonder, the variety of the natural world, here is verse to map your travels towards: words that illumine the heavens, reanimate the dead, consider the interior lives of tardigrades and lightning storms. Nordlund’s poetics is a roaming, speculative dreamscape, in whose vaults memory lingers, mothers speak in tongues of the afterlife, oracles resign their laurelled posts, and fairytales unbraid themselves to reveal their secrets. These poems both document and revel in the incandescent strangeness of the Anthropocene, inviting us to dip our oars into that boundless pelagic miracle. ~Shivanee Ramlochan

Open House


My mother is in my house. She has
auburn hair. It is no longer white. She
is not in a wheelchair. She is not ash
in the green urn in the curio cabinet.

We are in a kitchen I do not recognize.
The walls are brown. I am barefoot
on a buckling linoleum floor.
There are no blinds or tables or chairs.

She stirs oatmeal around and around
on a coal stove. There are frying pans of fat.
Her hands are working again–not stiff
with arthritis or Rigor mortis.

She is smiling, I am not.
I don’t know what time it is. I can’t find
my phone, or my keys, or a spoon,
or anyone still alive who loves me.

I decide it doesn’t matter.
I am tired of waiting for everything
to be ready. I drink wine now
from the faucet; maybe it is blood.

I hear a distant applause of mouse traps
in the basement. I don’t remember setting
them. I want to pretend the rodents are not down
there, or up here defecating in my drawers.

The cellar door is sealed to keep the flesh
flies out. It is now a wall with a mirror. She
applies her Lancome lipstick and liquid liner.
This place needs some sprucing.

We are in the entryway sorting
through socks. I can’t find any matches.
It is raining. There are books and bones
and soggy boxes stacked to the ceiling.

I forget what is inside.

She climbs familiar stairs with me. Clutches
her black pocketbook and flip phone.
I wonder how it is still charged.
I have never seen some of these rooms.

My mom is touring my mind and I will it
to be remodeled and beautiful–but nothing
has changed: The beds are unmade;
the toilets are unflushed; the holes are even

larger in the carpets that have been fading
here since 1993. And I’ve tried to turn off
every light to hide the mess I know
she sees. It is 3:00 AM and I am not sure

if I am awake. I think she is still in a cluttered
corner of my bedroom gathering scraps
of paper and tape to wrap my present.
Don’t peek or it will ruin the surprise–



The Tyndall Effect

The ocean is not blue.
The sky is not blue.
Eyes are not blue.

I will write you this color.
Tell myself it exists—
A beautiful shade of smoke.

Watch light enter the absences
scattering back
to an atmosphere
that also needs the sun.

Blue does not appear in any ancient text.
The Himba tribe has no word for blue.
The Russian language has multiple words for blue.

I read somewhere
a scientist’s daughter
was never primed to believe
the sky was blue–
and so it wasn’t–
until she was given the word.

Even after hours and hours
of repeated color word training
most three-year-olds
might as well be color blind.
The average six-year-old
can’t tell a pink cupcake from a blue one.

All blue birds are not blue.
Birds have no blue pigment.
If you grind up a blue jay’s wing,
the powder will be brown.

Blue is my favorite color.
Blood looks blue under lips,
until you break through to the truth.
My eyes are not blue.

Homer saw a wine-dark sea





As I watch Love Island,
as I partake in my Rosé and Cheez-Its,
as my daughter scrolls through her newsfeed,
as she tells me she can’t believe
that I watch this shit–
You have reached a new low
that this is every night,
that these guys are all so douchey,
as she tells me that her friend Brooke hooked up
with a guy last night off a sugar daddy app,
that her other friend Sarah is pregnant and
her parents are actually happy about it and–
look she posted a picture of the ultrasound
The father is not in any picture.
As she tells me one of her roommates
has this guy sleep over all the time
who she swears is thirty-five–
It is awkward when he comes downstairs and eats breakfast shirtless.
He is hot though.
As she assures me that girls
use guys for sex too,
that people don’t really date anymore,
that dick pics are actually a thing,
as I almost miss who America voted to keep,
as the two new guys face elimination,
[I can’t remember their names.]
Omg… Have you heard of this?
as she shoves her iPhone in my face,
as I read that two baby anaconda
were born into an exhibit
that has only adult females,
as I Google during commercial non sexual reproduction,
that lizards and sharks and birds
develop females without fertilization too–
even when there are males available for the taking.
As I wonder if Zach and Elizabeth will make
it to the end of the show,
as Kyra labors whether or not
to tell Cashel she is just not that into him,
as Kelsey canoodles with Weston behind Katrina’s back,
as Karo channels Cardi B’s baby voice
and spills the tea to anyone
who pretends to listen,
as all the boys dig her body–
but she can’t quite get a coupling
and there is going to be recoupling/decoupling/no coupling
in the villa,
as the losers’ tears birth on their bikinis,
even though they have just met
each other last week or yesterday.

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