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Laura McCullough

The Business of Feeding People (with Cherries)

you do not eat that which rips your heart with joy. –Tom Lux

Thinking deeply about the needs

of the audience, the audience being

whom you will be feeding, what

concerns about their bodies, their

chemistry, their hearts, and mind

mind you, because that matters,

as well, the habits and pleasures

of accustomed tastes and textures

mattering, you must try to appeal

to that, some level of gastronomic



there is the planning

and the purchasing, the grocery

stores you go for different ingredients

and bulk items, or some just enough

for only one meal and how to organize,

how to make sure you have bags ready,

or you will leave with armfuls heavy

and precariously balances, a jumble

in the back hatch of your vehicle,

a sloppy mess, maybe broken eggs

or jars because you forgot transport



bags, coolers, boxes,

the packaging needed to get things

from stores to the home place

where you must then sort, stack,

combine, date, and commit

to memory regarding the menus

and dates and numbers of meals

needed and for whom and what

their nutritional issues are and also

and also their tiny desires, humble

as a jar of maraschino cherries in


Or that brand...

of root beer or type

of onion he likes, you will slice

thin to top his favorite sandwiches,

the ones he is not allowed to eat,

yet any one might be the last, and

who would deny him this pleasure?

This, too, is part of your job: when

to and the when not to; you decide

which is more important, his health

or last pleasures, some modicum

of joy.


The wages of dying is love. –Galway Kinnell

Trying to be a good citizen, you save

and carry bags everywhere, storing

them in cabinets, drawers, closets. When

you come in from shopping, it’s hard

to remember to put them in your car,

and next time you come out of Trader

Joe's with your arms clumsily cradling

as a basket the big sunhat you found

in the car in the backseat under a towel

from the summer the last time you got

to a beach, and you fill it with limes

and lemons and a jar or two of things

you felt you could not find at Wegmans

or Lidl's or Acme or ShopRite, all of which

are within a 5 mile radius, all of which you

go to for different things at different times

all of which feel like a gauntlet; those bags

are all jumbled into drawers and cupboards

and closets along with all the glass jars you

have washed and saved, peeled off the labels

and scraped the residue off of, so you could

cook healthy things and store them in glass

to avoid leaching chemicals from plastics;

you are trying to keep everyone alive.

You are

trying to keep everyone healthy. Oh, you try,

but fail. They get sick, repeatedly. Some die.

All will, sometime, and none of it can you

stave off.

Oh, the wages of dying. No amount

of love seems to save anybody,

and some days

it feels as if the price

of love

is the dying.


Laura McCullough's last book, WOMEN & OTHER HOSTAGES was out last year, her 6th or 7th. Others included The Wild Night Dress, selected by Billy Collins in the Miller Williams Poetry Contest, University of Arkansas Press, Jersey Mercy (Black Lawrence Press), Rigger Death & Hoist Another (BLP) , Panic (winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award, Alice James Books), Speech Acts (BLP), and What Men Want (XOXOX Press). She has edited two anthologies, A Sense of Regard: essays on poetry and race (Georgia University Press, 2015) and The Room and the World: essays on Stephen Dunn (University of Syracuse Press, 2014). Her poems and prose have appeared in Best American Poetry, Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Writer’s Chronicle, Guernica, Cimarron Review, The Southern Review, Gulf Coast, Pank, Hotel America, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals and magazines.


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