Three Poems by Taylor Franson-Thiel






A Nuclear Family

Manhattan in the summer,
pretty to look at but sweltering up close.
My uranium mother keeping all of us in check
in streets too small for her giants.
Her home, a home of order.
Fragile and volatile and entirely unreasonable next to
a steely father, comfortable
as a metal casing—holding in,
reminding us that mutually assured destruction
has another name.
And it is mother.
The bleaching of our pure, sterile atoms
are the price we pay for the
dust that collection on his frame.
From a busy corner looking in
you see two kids in rank and file
one, jostling in his sphere
begging for a pair of scissors/span>
some chaos and some war—
the other doing all she can to not
be the snip that cuts the wrong red wire.
Daughter does not dare
defy, to deride or fail,
son steps on clean ground
with mud caked shoes and tells mom to
How do you tell a fission filled matriarch
to chill when the unspottedness’s need
for molecular stability is in jeopardy.
We left the city soon after my brother’s accident
when the atoms split and
he learned what
an explosion really looks like.
Not awe, but ending
not power, but guilt.
Nothing would ever be clean enough
in the lingering smoke.


Slick blue iceberg breath
Pressed up inside a whale
Pressed up inside my chest
Paper origami swans
Frozen on the lake of my lungs
I’m lighting a match now
To burn it out of me
It is not art when I hold
my hands over burning wax,
Maybe I want to get struck by lightning
Maybe I want to freeze in the dawn
of my own basalt body
Maybe I want to see the swans
Open up wide pale wings, and leave

Etymology of Light

As a child, I was convinced
the streetlights waltzed together
after I fell asleep. Rusty arms
intertwined with one another,
eyes lighting the steps to a dance
they had performed so many nights
before. Laced with anxious veins,
I’d often wake from a recurring nightmare—
one where my house burst into
flames, and I could not escape—and,
stumble to the window, trying to catch
them in their dance. My hope, to witness
their safe light, soothing my little body,
so unfamiliar with regulating fear. Yet,
the rustle of the curtain, call of my cry
as I woke always alerted them straight,
back to their guard posts.
Years later, a doctor would say OCD
she’d say preliminary indicators
and I’d remember staring at the
four corners of my room so I would
notice the second I saw orange red blue
flames tickle crown molding. I’d
remember a childhood of nights spent waiting,
holding my breath at the base of a window
thinking my stillness convincing.
I’d remember that the streetlights
never let me catch them.

Taylor Franson-Thiel is a Pushcart nominated poet from Utah, now based in Fairfax, Virginia. She received her Master’s in creative writing from Utah State University and is pursuing an MFA at George Mason University. Her writing frequently centers on the intersections between the female body, religion, and her experiences as a college athlete. You can find her work in places such as Psaltery and Lyre, Quarter Press, The Bangalore Review. Along with writing, she enjoys lifting heavy weights and reading fantastic books.

Image: Yoonahkim, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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