By Amy Hadden Marsh
photo caption: Tunnel art at Peace Camp near the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, circa 1992.
“There is a fire on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Environmentalists are concerned that radioactive soil will be mobilized.”
Once the center of plutonium production,
now the bottle in which the genie resides,
Summer alpine breeze stirs white lace curtains
in my bedroom, three states east.
Faded duck-and-cover propaganda from school days
haunts my brain, extorting memories.
“In case of nuclear attack, duck under your desk and cover your head with a piece of paper.”
Shadows of children
will remain on the walls, under desks
for us to look at after 50 years
when the school is a memorial park.
One night in 1985, a nuclear reactor half a planet away blew up.
My lover had left. I felt alone.
He stood laughing on a street corner
as I walked into the night.
I searched the sky for radioactive rain clouds
But, there is never any warning.
30 minutes wouldn’t give us time to pray.
I ducked into my car.
Ten years later, Russian officials commit suicide in honor of Chernobyl.
Remember seared sheep in St. George
Remember strontium snow, winter white
falling in silence on New York and Cincinnati
when I was a child,
tucked in under blankets, dreaming
under the cloud.
2000-degree inferno eats distance.
Green flags of surrendering sagebrush, rootbound,
ignite at windspeed.
5 miles and closing
banished for 250,000 years.
One night in 1991, the first of the Resource Wars half a planet away
sent black plumes of oily smoke into the sky.
Sunsets here were gritty.
Scorched earth against a backdrop of giant fires
became a movie
for popcorn viewing on city screens 30 feet high.
We had the experience, remorseless;
discussed it later over café cappuccino.
Children of Kuwait have no clean water to this day.
An infant in my arms is crying.
Like all children, she is not mine.
Her mother hands me a plastic clock
with bright faces of sun and moon
to distract her tears.
I hand her Hanford, Chernobyl, Kuwait,
the Atomic Clock at 5 minutes to midnight.
She screams, red-faced.
Hanford is burning: the wind blows east.
Amy Hadden Marsh is a reporter for KDNK Community Radio in Carbondale, CO. She protested nuclear weapons on Western Shoshone land (the Nevada Nuclear Test Site) from 1988 to 2007.