—after a photo of mannequins awaiting the 1953 atomic bomb test blast

If it weren’t for the monochrome, we would know
if her hair is white or blonde. We’re left to speculate.
She could be his mother, but her skin tells no stories,
smooth as plaster. Sitting beside the man, her arm
hooked into his, she looks down at concrete, cold
beneath her feet, bare toes pointed as though perpetually
in heels. She is sleek, strong, has the same body as the man’s
wife. We know the dark-haired woman to his right is his wife
because the toddler is on her lap, and by the way she looks
longingly at the man’s face, as though he might stop the bomb,
sweep fallout from the front porch, throw a steak on the grill
and laugh about this over Martinis. He’s reaching out
for her hand, or maybe the toddler’s, whose sharp features
make him look like an anti-cherub, a mannequin. The adults
wear bathrobes, nightgowns, pajamas, but the toddler is fully
dressed in overalls, striped shirt, sneakers. This is how
the men stomach detonating the predawn bomb—the boy
is unlovable. Except that he’s propped onto his mother’s lap,
nobody touches him. He is completely still, staring at the planks
of the basement shelter walls. In the couple’s eyes, there is
hope. They believe this is only a test. The other woman’s gaze
suggests otherwise. Her face self-reflecting, you can see
in her eyes she has a past, that, if she could, she’d detach
herself from the man, push her palms together and pray.

Angela Voras-Hills

Angela’s first collection of poems, Louder Birds (Pleiades 2020), was awarded the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Memorious, New Ohio Review, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals and anthologies. She has received grants from The Sustainable Arts Foundation and Key West Literary Seminar, as well as a fellowship at Writers’ Room of Boston. She lives with her family in Milwaukee, WI.

Share This