The Torrid Zone
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Laura McCullough

has two collections of poetry, What Men Want (forthcoming from XOXOX Press) and The Dancing Bear (Open Book Press 2006), as well as a chapbook of prose poems, Elephant Anger (Mudlark). 

She has won two New Jersey State Arts Council Fellowships, one in prose and one in poetry, and a partial scholarship from the Vermont Studio Center.  She has also been a Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry and has served, on the staff at Bread Loaf.

Among her publishing credits are Prairie Schooner, Gulf CoastNimrodBoulevard, The Portland Review, and other journals.

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There’s a Whore at my Table

What a dress she was wearing! Some one gasped.
Just seaweed? Another choked on his wine. Legs
and ropes, someone else muttered to cover his
embarrassment, aware of the double entendre
lurking in the corner, and there were snickers

all around. But everyone had a hard on, even
the women, and I had her lay on the table. Look
at her, really look, I said, my hands in her hair
tying small braids. Hear the salt settling on her
skin, the brave cilia in her ears going to sleep

for you, the way her orifices all glisten, even
those ear canals, even her pores; no matter
how you enter her, it always leads to meat,
which isn’t sweet, but will sustain you in
your hungry hours. Some of you have left

the table, angry. One of you reaches a hand
to skim her icing breast. Before we’re done,
I know we’ll tear her apart, much too curious
to hold back from the offer of blood, what
makes it all work, this body, this awful desire.

We’ll devour her, even bones and brain, and
when we’re through, eye each other; asking
what’s next? And what would I demand if
only it could be me, the carrion, a carcass,
untranslatable, but impossible to ignore?