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Radiograph Atlas



I saw him after three months out of touch,

toothpick dangling from his lips; the habit

replaced the pipe, replaced the cigarette.

“I’d like you to read my x-ray,” he said.

Bewildered eyes beheld a galaxy;

constellations of pearly white 

against a backdrop of gray haze

dispersed throughout the lungs 

like starry bands that form the Milky Way,

lymph nodes illuminating pitch-black sky.


We started the car and drove nowhere

along highways he’d driven as a boy

before the interstates were built.

Anointing ourselves with crisp air,

road dust, bone-rattled engine, we passed

through countless towns now sidelined;

rusted pickups languishing at roadside,

collapsing homesteads, storefronts boarded up

dilapidated, devastated, gray,

forever and forever and forever.


Alone on the road, I looked up and saw

a light. I thought it was the moon, but no—

it was a gas station sign, held aloft.

ANNA MARÍA DEL PILAR SUBEN is a Masters student at the Brown School of Public Health, and has worked as an EMT.

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