Self-Portrait as Nuclear Fallout

Molly Bess Rector



Mornings I rise
             a few degrees at a time
and dress myself
             beside the water
in silence, brush iodine 
             into my hair, adorn
my cheeks in excess
             moth wings, place
on my clavicle
             a brooch: a six-legged frog.


A lot of men come to study
                          my body.
They gather
             impossible data:
What was it bore me
             out of (their) control?
Back, they slide:
             May hunker?
May take shelter?
                          Too late.

I'm building a realm
             on reactions.


I bet you'd never guess
             how still the cooling pool
when once: tsunami,
             sudden power surge, flood—
all this a kind of coronation
             for the queen whose unstable
diadem slips between
             her eyes, radiates.

Even the dust I slough


These men 
             look for origins.
             when we're born
the universe spins one way;
                          when we die
it spins the other—
                          procedure for the spirit
to follow. 
             Does anyone still
                          follow procedures?
Or think we can forestall
                                       the end
with a good plan?


I've never learned to think 
except by acting. A different kind 
             of doctrine.

Granted: how fragile the core. 
Granted: all systems rupture 
             when shaken hard 

enough, given the chance 
             to melt down.


Origin: even that man came
             Wild alert, the ambulance squall;

his mother’s howls a kind of sonic fallout—
             his refusal to be contained. Sure—

he can call me disaster if he wants.

Why does it matter
                                       whose fault
I am? Now
                          I've made 
this gown of waste.