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Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter

by Kathleen Kimball-Baker



I thought it would be
    like this: thin, glowing communion
       wafers, drifting down from god-blue skies.

I imagined a cascade of slow death for all
    that mattered—my room, my six allowed
        library books, mornings of fog that rolled
            down the foothills, then lifted all at once,
                swimming lessons and lifeguards,
                    lemony magnolia blooms,
                        my one-speed bike.

If a flake of fallout were to touch me,
    they said, my skin would blister
        and peel, I’d catch leukemia
            and it would push out my hair
                and make me bald.

I’d probably bleed from my nose
    and other places we don’t talk about.
        Even though the glowing wafers might look
            pretty, I understood I should never
                touch them.

All the ready people knew that fallout
    meant they should hurry to their concrete
        bunker—if they had one.

                        For us, the shelter of civil defense
        would have to do; for me—
my mother, her hugs,
                                her shushing.

Kathleen Kimball-Baker is a writer, editor, and dog-sledding enthusiast in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poems appear in Nimrod InternationalPoet LorePangyrusWelterPoetry South, and in Three HeartsAn Anthology on Cephalopod Poetry (World Enough Writers) and Anthology Forest: A Collection of Poems Honoring the Forest (Tiny Seed Journal). She is a three-time finalist in the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series and received an honorable mention for her essay on the rigors and rewards of training a six-dog team of huskies.