weird cloud

Traveling Salesman
Tamara Sellman

He's seen black webs since he was seven,
having looked out from an abandoned railcar

on backyard tracks in rural Missouri the day
he swears he witnessed the cloud of death

so revered by the world in '45, a plume
so palpable it never quite evaporated.

Half a century later, and he's still looking at it
over the rise of the steering wheel, beyond

freeway signs and trailer trucks lined up
at Stuckey's. It's the mushroom in the bottom

of his coffee cup, the glowing whorls
of his fingerprints, the shape of time when fear

had a color and a tangible explanation, when
being Russian was red and wrong, and being

American meant contracting for Battelle
at the nuclear plant for a downwinder's pay

to impress the folks back home, to feed
his children bone-white radioactive milk.

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