Laura McCullough

Glory of the Seas

The puka shell has a hole that is not bored or broken
but found and threaded makes a string worn for luck
or safe voyage, now not common, though still casual,
beads formed from other shells or even plastic. But
the snail that coils inside the shell is as beautiful if not
more so than the shell found on the shore, flesh striated
and luminous, attracting attention, but has venom—small
ones like an insect sting; larger ones can kill—multitude
of compounds, finding ground in medicine, paralyzing
pain better than morphine and non-addicting, a trick then
for the body, without the risk. And the shell, once prized
and expensive, now is not, since we have dived so low
and found where they were hidden, brought them out;
newly commoditized: bodies, our bones
carried on the inside, nothing we can discard or live
without until we determine what can be synthesized,
not necessarily disembodied, like the snail from shell,
but trans-lated (H+) or becoming what comes next, not
just body, but uploaded, exocortex, perhaps the artifact
we will leave is what we choose to collectively believe
into being, using sound and light, what washes over us
washes through us, stars, like shells of the sea, strung
and rung like music plucked from convergences bright,
more right than might, and all of us alone and singing.

The Depths


Almost no light and so cold. 

There next to me on the bus, that woman who lives
in the group home who dreams
of angels sleeping
between her teeth. She tell me
they have fallen out.
My babies! She cries, covering her mouth. I couldn’t save them!!  


She said something like that,
the woman at the Good Will today:
her mother in law dying, then the brother,
then she herself diagnosed with a tumor—
benign,  thank god—then her child diagnosed with diabetes,

and her hours cut, so she lost her health benefits,
and all of this just since August,
and the summer now over,
and she never got to the beach this year,
and now winter is coming soon,
and the daylight keeps getting shorter.



No solid surfaces for life to cling to.
No sanctuary, no refuge. Small things
eaten by the large because it is not safe to stay
in one place; because creation can not happen
in one place only; because the weather, wind, and water
collude to make us go—

Barracuda; jacks; sailfish; marlin; albacore.

Another name for a pod of sharks = a shiver. 



Species intermingled, like Asbury Park,
all that respiration and concrete,
            rock formations for people,
            hiding in all the crevices,
            and much of life simply moderate,
            not much doing, equable and even,
            the young especially unsatisfied by this,
the far off dying coral just too far off, an hypothesis at best:

pierce me, pierce me, let this fierce life take me someplace else.



The bodies of the dead accrue to the cities’
formation, millions over millennia;
every hour, every day, some coral polyps
perish and others are born,
those two old stories,
one way in, one way out,
the sea the same, essentially,
and our souls soldered by what?

Laura McCullough

Laura McCullough's most recent book of poems is Rigger Death & Hoist Another. Her other books are Panic, Speech Acts, and What Men Want. She is the editor of two anthologies: The Room & the World: Essays on the Poetry of Stephen Dunn, forthcoming from Syracuse University Press, and A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race, forthcoming from University of Georgia Press. She has been awarded scholarships or fellowships from Sewanee Writers Conference, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, and others. Her essays, criticism, poems, creative non-fiction, and short fiction have appeared in The Georgia Review, New South, Guernica, The American Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review, Pank, The Writer's Chronicle, Gulf Coast, Pedestal, Painted Bride Quarterly, and others. She is the editor of Mead: the Magazine of Literature and Libations and an editor at large for TranStudies Magazine.