by Jeff Oaks | A part of me, still.


A part of me is still hiding under my desk in second grade, waiting for the nuclear bombs to drop. We didn’t lock the doors or think about the glass of the windows shattering. We thought there’d be a white light and such heat we’d all die instantly; that would be it. It was cheering to think we wouldn’t suffer. We’d either be obliterated or transformed into pure white light—everything abandoned, needing nothing. That boy who got up eventually and went back to reading or math, he was a ghost, a sloughed off skin, snatched from heaven to say goodbye every morning to his mother and get good grades. I am still crouched down, excited to be beyond all expectations, all responsibility, bored with clothes and answering the phone and finishing my peas.

Jeff Oaks is the author of two books of poetry, Little What and The Things, both published by Lily Poetry Review Books. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships, Oaks has published poems in a number of literary magazines, most notably Best New Poets, Field, the Georgia Review, the Missouri Review, Superstition Review, and Tupelo Quarterly. His prose has appeared in At Length, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Kenyon Review Online, and Water-Stone Review. Both his poems and prose have appeared in the anthologies Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction and My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. He teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. 

This essay is a Short Reads original.

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