Tonight my wife is at the edge of the yard,
the edge of the light, what was the edge
of the woods before the landlords cleared it.
She’s stooped down, calling the cats.
What seems so beautiful and sad about the moment?
We’ve lost our language, and the night
is moonless and black. Only the cats
know what’s here, and they come bounding back
toward the house with their fur raised.
My wife walks up to me and asks, Did you see
the badger? And then she explains how she herself
had not seen it until it was only a few feet away,
how it waddled right past her across the cleared lot,
oblivious to the cats, to her, to everything.
Her face is full of wonder.
No, I didn’t see it.
But tonight, in this darkness, knowing
that a badger crossed the back lot, oblivious
to everything, is like the firefly’s momentary light,
something almost good enough.
SEEING HIROSHIMA FROM THE SEVENTH GRADE
In the darkened history room, we saw
the blinding flash and mushroom cloud
in grainy black and white: an imploding
instant, an expanding light, the rumbling voice
of God. Then a cut to the ruined city
with voice-over narration.
Later, a quiz asked for answers:
Tinian and Tibbets,
Enola Gay and Little Boy,
August 6, 1945,
9,000 pounds, 20,000 tons,
32,000 feet, four square miles,
100,000 and 100,000.
But what did we learn? And what
did we even see as the light flickered
over tired eyes still adapting to life
without recess? Was it just a test
or was it death? Perhaps decency
demanded an edit, and a simple splice
took us from test footage in New Mexico
to the aftermath in Japan. Or perhaps not.
We may have seen the blast itself,
and somewhere in the smallest grains
of this old film were the melting eyes,
the swelling skin, the smaller explosions.
Somewhere in the depths of that screen
far beyond our vision the people
of Hiroshima, their lives floating past
like paramecia on a thick slide.
Dan Albergotti lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. His poetry has appeared in Ascent, Mississippi Review, Poem, Southern Humanities Review, and other journals. New poems are forthcoming in Chiron Review, The Laurel Review, and Sundog: The Southeast Review. He is the current poetry editor of The Greensboro Review.
poems copyright 2001 by Dan Albergotti