Laura McCullough


What You Can't Throw Away


You lay him in my arms like a bag
of pastries that shouldnít be tipped

or theyíll lose their butter-crumble
layer. He was two. You and I were

on number five, not marriages or
states, but the number of other human

beings weíre directly responsible for.
"They still canít figure it out," you

said, and I nodded, the bag in my arms
starting to collect itself, and it was angry.

Heís coming to, I said, and you nodded
back, that look in your face of guilt

as if you were always on the verge
of asking, maybe we shouldnít have

done this? Thatís never what you said
though. When his eyes came into focus,

his lips curling to howl his only words,
you said, "He sure is beautiful, isnít he?"

How could anyone not love a man like that?
Hoisting that child back from my tired arms,

you cradled him like something lovely, an old
slice of your own wedding cake, the one

you canít eat, but donít want to throw
away either. It lives in the freezer just

waiting to come alive, the idea of it so
important, thatís all that matters sometimes.  


I have two collections of poetry, What Men Want (forthcoming XOXOX Press) and The Dancing Bear (Open Book Press 2006), a chapbook of prose poems, Elephant Anger (Mudlark), and my first novel, Finding Ong's Hat, is forthcoming from Plain View Press. I've won two NJ State Arts Council Fellowships, one in prose and one in poetry, have been a Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry, on the Bread Loaf staff, and a Vermont Studio Center partial scholarship recipient. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Hotel Amerika, Nimrod, Pebble Lake Review, Iron Horse Quarterly, Boulevard, The Portland Review, and other journals.


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