Tuesday, November 29, 2016

San Cristóbal, Cuba, October, 1962*

A good place for the end of a road
and the last work to begin:
packed dirt turns to dual ruts
bulldozers have scarred through the grass.
All around this clearing ragged heads
of palms toss in slow motion as if
something terrible took place
that needed minute recording. Brightness
of the clouds cuts shadows on the ground
of wild weeds, shadows of a truck, that
trailer and a tent too long for any purpose
than here, five hours from the bunker at Bejucal.

I grip the jeeps's wheel whiter
when a pelican overflies the site,
and I brake and park by a generator
that runs roughly on a patch of mud.
Too much sky here, as if already
there was nowhere left to hide and heat
rose from the open earth back to the sun,
and this place so carefully planned
is already unravelled to the stratosphere.

In this meantime I check my list slowly.
Here sit the prime movers on clogged tracks;
here the pulled tanks of fuel; here the formula
that makes it burn; here the winch to pull
the nosecone skyward so it may fall to earth
once more as a star breaking days
apart in one simple flash. I check
them all off and it finally occurs to me
that everything is present right here
at the end of a road, all of it precisely
ordered beyond anyone's wishes,
even the lost smoke of diesel engines.

*One of the missile launching sites discovered by U-2 flights over Cuba at the beginning of the crisis.

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