23 February 2007 | Vol. 6, No. 4

Wanting to Open It and Opening It

The durian fruit stinks

            like you killed your grandmother

and stuffed her under

            the living room couch,

or the circuit

            in your garage got tripped

and you didn't know it,

            and when you go to the basement

to get some bacon

            from the freezer one Sunday

morning in August,

            you open the freezer door

to this sudden knowledge.

            Or you've come upon a dead deer.

This is what the fruit

            smells like, but it tastes

like custard and breaks

            across your tongue like sugared

pudding. When given the choice

            between beauty or truth would you

choose if it would result in even one grief?

            Or let's lower

the stakes, not beauty, not truth,

            such abstractions:

Just one small girl, her name the same

            as the girl who lives

in your mind, her eyes filled with light,

            her smell like a hot,

humid morning, her hand on your arm

            like laughter held back—

what would it take for you to kill her?

            Don't tell me.

Don't tell anyone. What is her life worth,

            what kind of sacrifice

to the gods would she make? Rain in a drought

            year? The end to war

in the Middle East? Remission of your son's

            cancer? Who could blame

you? Who could blame anyone for not eating

            fruit that stinks

even after they knew the taste would be worth

            fighting back the instinct

to retch? God isn't here, and Satan is asleep;

            so tell me the truth,

even if you knew what lay behind that door

            in the basement,

would you want to open it anyway? Bask

            in its foreignness?

About the author:

Laura McCullough has published poems widely in literary magazines and journals such as Conte, Dream People, Nimrod, Potion, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Coast, Nightsun, Spoken War, Iron Horse Quarterly, Boulevard, Amarillo Bay, God Particle, Poetry East, Confluence, Exquisite Corpse, 42opus, the Potomac, Stirring, Word Riot, Tarpaulin Sky, and others. Her first collection of poems, The Dancing Bear, was published in February 2006 by Open Book Press with jacket blurbs by Stephen Dunn, Li-Young Lee, and BJ Ward.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Laura McCullough at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 6, No. 4, where "Wanting to Open It and Opening It" ran on February 23, 2007. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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