Laura McCullough


On the Other Side of the Screen


There was a fist sized
fetus in my gut the day

the TV showed them
falling. My other kids

were in school, safe.
It was one of those fall

days in south Jersey
that makes getting through

the humid, mosquito-swarm
summer bearable. Nothing

but blue in the air, nothing
to mar the day. From my back

porch, I could hear the TV
through the kitchen window.

Iíd look in at the replayed
crazy Lego-tower knock-down

as long as I could stand it,
my nose pressed close

to the screen with the tiny
holes the kids had poked,

the little mesh repair squares
woven like metal bandaids.

Thereís so much that day
to remember, but what I

recall is my back yard,
standing on that porch,

the wood laurel beginning
to pop, the tiny white stars

of winter clematis declaring
themselves king of the woods,

again, and the woods, and
the fist in my belly, how it

kept growing tighter, until
I couldnít hold it any longer,

and then, it just let go. Like
that, nothing more, and I

donít live in that house
anymore, and September

days are just about always
beautiful, and my children,

they werenít safe, not then,
not now, and when I dream

itís almost never about
anything too awful, but

sometimes, just before
I fall asleep, with the TV

off and the crickets ticking
in the woods, thereís another

kind of fist in my belly. This
one holds tight, whatís inside

nothing more sinister or
comforting than a secret

anyone might be willing
to protect with whatís left

of their life, perhaps even
to die for, like flowering vines

choking the trees, crickets
      calling for mates, children

vying for attention, the goal
      to have everything, just

when you want it, just when
you think you need it most

whether you really do or not
and even if kills you to get it.  


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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