Laura McCullough


Radiation - Poem by Laura McCullough

Stand on the sidewalk
with a cup of warm soup, curry,
the color of wheat in late August, and let yourself

be seen. It’s the currency
of the street. Wear nothing
or everything you own. It doesn’t matter. They’ll devour

you with their eyes,
grateful for your humanity today.
What you see when you look back is the depth of space

behind each cheekbone,
the distance between the street
and an open window where sadness lurks in the shape

of a man who found
out today he can’t have children.
His face is luminous, the color of curry or yarrow,

your finest eye shadow,
the one meant to capture autumn.
It’s there in his eyes more beautiful than anything.

In the lot of the hardware
store someone watching
you sees the color of your brother’s car accident

rolling off your shoulders
like heat off hot tar in July.
They recognize the smell of unresolved childhood

grief, and it fills them
the way good, yeasty bread does.
Let them look; you’re busy. The man in the window

is stretching now,
his white chest wide, spine cracking
and with it the odor of vanilla ice cream on a good man’s

beard when he kissed you
goodbye. Turn away, walk along
the brick curb radiating all the accrued sunshine you can

on the surface of your skin
like a body glove. Greet passersby
with a direct gaze. Be confident they see right through you.

If someone begins to cry,
tell them a few blocks down,
is a man in an open window with a chest like a snowy day.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, July 2, 2005



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