I’ve got nothing much new to say, so I’ll share an old poem instead. This is one of several atomic bomb poems I wrote many years ago after my father-in-law told me stories about them (he did three tours in Korea, and before he was shipped overseas to fight he was dropped off in Nevada where the US government was testing atomic bombs by dropping them on soldiers to measure the effects on humans, among other things). His stories got me interested in all these atomic bomb tests carried out in the 1950’s and early 60’s; this particular poem was based on an eyewitness account I found online of the very first bomb drop ever conducted on American soil. It was written by one of the two men who’d been stationed out in an old shack in the middle of the desert, and it described them sitting outside at night watching the plane inch closer that would drop the bomb right on top of them – no one knew what was going to happen, and they didn’t know what to do except sit there and wait.
Frenchman Flats, 1951
The desert floor is crumpled as an old photograph,
sand as cold as fisheyes. Joshua trees surrender
like enemies in the distance. The coyotes
are crying on cue, howling their presence to the moon,
the moon a zygote in the sky, an untreated wound.
They insist this moment matters, not the one
for which you wait, when the bomber banks right
and the world goes white. There’s a pulse
in the eastern sky – humming high over the horizon,
a heavy underbelly flashing red. Remember this.
The moment you embrace your nothingness.