Knowing the Bomb So Well
After the nightly news and four martinis
he quietly begins to draw the inner workings
of the bomb, knowing the explosion needed
to ignite fission does not itself compromise
the real event; how compartmentalized the bomb,
of necessity, is, to keep the elements
separate until it impacts on target;
with what care the bomb is timed so that
from the moment of release it proceeds
inexorably to detonation.
It is necessary then to explain his drawing
in detail to the children, before they go to bed.
After a few moments he quizzes them:
What are the proper names of the bombs dropped
on Nagasaki, Hiroshima? Who captained
the Enola Gay? How does a prisoner
of war answer the enemy? The children
do not speak. They know release has occurred,
the elements are colliding, impact is inevitable.
It is always a first-strike situation. Always.
From Homefront (Wordtech Editions 2005).
Used by permission.
Patricia Monaghan grew up in Alaska and now teaches literature and environment at DePaul University in Chicago; she also tends an organic farm and vineyard in Black Earth, Wisconsin. She is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Homefront (Word Tech Press), which considers the impact of war on families and from which this poem is taken. She is a Founding Fellow of Black Earth Institute, a progressive think-tank for artists striving to connect social justice, environment and spirituality.
Monaghan was on the panel “Giving Voice to the Silence/d” at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010. Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!
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