Allisa Cherry

An Exodus of Sparks, pt. 1

America, you flexed your nuclear

muscles in our direction 1,054 times

over the length of my father’s short life.

1,054 catastrophic blooms

shattering the desert floor,

confounding the waters and the heavens.

It took us years—decades even—

to realize the full arc of our swoon

before you, America. You buckled 

your own soldiers down in the trenches 

repeatedly. They prayed before you 

and you revealed their hand bones 

glowing beneath their skin. Pigs squealed

in aluminum barrels all around ground zero.

Ranchers wept before discolored cattle.

You strolled onto playgrounds waving your 

Geiger counters over children frightened 

by the arrhythmic crackles and clicks. 

America, your mouth was one round

radio speaker repeating over and over 

that you would never harm us as you

stroked your two-headed lamb and

straddled your babies. My father 

was so small when you began to powder

his milky teeth and bones with your radiation. 

It drifted across the southwest as quiet as pollen

while his body swung through time like a net 

gathering up your shining particulates

until one day his DNA lit up

in a conflagration of letters. America,

the last time you flexed your nuclear muscles 

in our direction, my father was almost dead

from cancer. You called your final test

Divider and never once looked back.

Still, he believed in you 

until his last monitored breath.

America—face resplendent, amber eyes 

blazing—my father’s ruination. When he died

his curled hand looked like it still

clutched at your garment’s bright hem. 

Allisa Cherry Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Maine Review, Nine Mile Magazine, The Ilanot Review, Rust + Moth, High Desert Journal, and The Baltimore Review, and has received pushcart and best of the net nominations. She lives in the Pacific Northwest where she completed her MFA at Pacific University, teaches workshops for immigrants and refugees transitioning to a life in the United States, and is an associate poetry editor for West Trade Review.