Laura McCullough


He moved his hands over my face
and belly, discovered my keys, my pockets.

He said he liked ducks and smelled faintly
of mothballs. I told him I had a duck once
that nibbled my neck when I lay in the grass.

What had I done, giving him hope like that?
I told him my duck ate the expensive water lilies
in the neighbor’s pond, how I let it go in the wild
with the other ducks where it belonged.

When he left, I took one of the barn cats
in my lap. It didn’t resist, and I was grateful
for its closed eyes, tilted head, its exposed
neck. I closed my eyes, too, and listened
to the murmuring horses in the field
whose lips coursed the ground for lost feed.

When I opened them, a jet from the airport
had drawn a line nearly straight up into the sky.
Everything seemed certain, made sense until
I got up to go; then the sky came down
like stones on the heads of the guilty
and I touched my face with all ten fingers,
first without smiling, and then as I cried.

Laura McCullough holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Goddard College. She has been a New Jersey State Arts Council Fellow, won a Geraldine R. Dodge Scholarship to attend the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and was the 2005 Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry at the Nebraska Summer Writers Workshop. She attended the 2005 Bread Loaf writers conference as a contributor. She has published poems widely in literary magazines and journals such as Nimrod, Potion, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Coast, Stirring, Nightsun, Iron Horse Quarterly, Boulevard, The God Particle, Poetry East, Confluence, Exquisite Corpse, Word Riot, Tarpaulin Sky, and others. Her first collection of poems, The Dancing Bear, was published in February, 2006 by Open Book Press. She is a professor of writing at Brookdale Community College in NJ where she chairs the Visiting Writers Series.

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