A poem for 29th August – the UN designated: “International Day Against Nuclear Tests”
Because last night they were running the nuke tests again and I huddled in a deserted drive-in movie parking lot behind the screen. No time to make it inside a van or a bunker. And the shock wave felt like an electric shock. Skin rippled, mercury blood. It’s already too late. It’s in the marrow — dna spinning out skeins of new code: A lobster, a seal, a rooster, a human, a stone with a heartbeat.
Because somewhere inside this Hades waits. Folded hands and bracken crown. On his throne of pale gray metal. He is smiling for us. He is shining in us. He is a million micro-curies of dust blown round the world, nesting in the smallest niches of the alveoli, settling in the ocean-bottom of the bones.
Because he is a sign written in a language no longer spoken. A salt cave slowly melting beneath rusting barrels of discarded plutonium.
Because he promised us a cold cloth for our foreheads, and the pomegranate seeds exploded on our tongues.
Because he is the planet at the edge of our sight, the shadow in our memory, the word made stone.
Because he comes as rain, as ash, as the chariot that bursts from autumn earth, trailing arcs of smoke and fire.
My sister will not move her family to southern Utah – too much fallout from tests with names like Ranger, Teapot, Nougat, and Sunbeam. In the 1950’s the mushroom clouds could be seen from hotels on the Las Vegas strip – a tourist attraction. 928 tests in Nevada alone.
Because once Hades has anointed you with a touch of his burning cold hand – there seems to be no other way to get warm.