John Laue

Los Alamos      (Hope)

“I call on all States to focus on one overriding truth: the only sure way to prevent the         human, environmental and existential destruction these weapons can cause, is by             eradicating them once and for all.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking at the UN                           Security Council on August 23, 2016.

The town appears innocent enough
nestled among green mountains
like a softball in a catcher’s mitt,
unobtrusive but for several
serially numbered compounds
scattered through the woods,
each labeled “Technical Area”.

We’re aware of where we are,
have steeled ourselves
to make no judgments,
but aren’t prepared to cross
Bikini Atoll Drive,
then Oppenheimer
and Trinity Streets.

We stop for lunch; I query waitresses
about the special areas.
One says they were widely spread
during World War Two
so they couldn’t all be bombed at once;
another that they’re separated for security:
each does its separate tasks,
its staff kept ignorant
of other compounds’ work.

Surely the second coming is at hand,
wrote Yeats, the poet of cataclysm.
I don’t believe in that,
yet if it happens it could happen here:
this place invites it. Here are routes
omitted from all local maps,
but which must exist in minds and hearts.

I call them phantom streets—
the ones expressing so much truth
they’re deemed unmentionable:
Fat Man Boulevard, Little Boy Drive,
Hiroshima Avenue, Nagasaki Lane.

I wonder when the next
will thunder into being. Will it be an alley
(merely tactical, they’ll tell us,
of minimal importance)
or a thoroughfare so wide and massive
its rubble poisons continents?

Does Yeats’ great beast
now have a pale American face?
Or more than one,
not mythical like Cerebus,
the triple-headed hound
(though that would fit the bill),
but with heady home-grown majesty?

Now the evening filters in;
night lights are lit; I take to bed
and through the haze of dreams
see Rushmore’s giant visages
stare with blank oblivious eyes
as a government blind as they
uses their great gravitas
to hold the world hostage
with its silos of hells.