Saturday, March 22, 2014

ARCLIGHT


A portion of the forest goes white.
On a TV somewhere in Texas:

the eye of a test pattern, the drawn-out tone.
So high you can't hear them

fixed wings chalk the sky. A wrinkled man
stands beneath his lintel.

How small he becomes
in the arc light.

In a hole on the map, near the sector
where all color bleeds,

I hold my knees to my chest and scream.
I hear nothing

as the angel passes by
so shy and scornful.

A face and a voice fill the screen
in Texas. A voice names the province

where green seeps back into the branches
and lizards flick and hide.

I climb into a rain of splinters.
I wipe the blood from my lip.

Morning in Amarillo finds yellow buses
and children in red boots.

They pray on their desks
near the Pantex facility.

Pipers and cranes tear out
crazy from the deadfall.

My friends beg over the radio, squawk,
needing assurance, needing forcasts.

I tell them all is well.
We have destroyed everything.



NOTE: This old poem was once posted then taken down. The title comes from ARCLIGHT, the code name for B-52 air strikes during the Vietnam War. Pantex refers to the facility in Amarillo, Texas, that assembled nuclear weapons during the Cold War. For those who weren't around in 1967, the test pattern was a familiar sight on televisions at late hours before and after station signoff. It was often accompanied by single electronic tone that resembled the one used on TV during civil defense tests. The first draft of this poem was composed entirely in my head in bed after waking up one morning. This is a very unusual process for me, and may account for the hallucinatory nature and its bi-location in Vietnam and Texas. One image is stolen from a William Faulkner novel, too.

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