Uranium

This is our element, silver-white
Almost mistaken for the moon

As it rises over Alameda,
Oakland, and Baghdad by the Bay.

Hue of the span itself that nearly
Saw its own demise when the earth

Shook and shook in ’89 —
Cars nose-diving to Treasure Island

But by the grace of God hung on
Like carnival rides gone wrong.

Now those who entertain ambition
Place uranium in shells;

White House politicians who think
Little of particles showering down

On nomad lands of Mesopotamia
Where palms stud the ancient landscape,

Where women in swirling burkas could be
Anyone’s mother walking to market

To buy a loaf of bread, a sack of sugar.
What hails from those missiles

Happens, travels like gossip,
Lodges in the lung, the kidneys,

Sickens semen, spreads; what
Firebrand of evil could have dreamt this

Not even Sycorax herself with curses,
Raining venom on banished Caliban.

What monstrous munitions will do
Lasts and lasts: chromosomal damage,

Helixes twisted irreparably so that children
Are born without noses, eyes, ears

In a land that once flourished with dates,
Wheat and cotton; the Tigris and Euphrates —

Rich water ribbons that ministered a civilization
Of sheiks in gorgeous palaces

That outstripped all fabled praise, but now
Left in shambles as if the devil himself

Damned the lot, though true there were Caligulas
But weapons were much meeker

(As if weapons could have conscience or categories),
Certainly not as egregious as those today.

Thus for a drop of oil, our country spares
Nothing, seals this awful waste in armored

Casings: a testament of bravura we deem
As winning until thousands are cursed with cancers,

And then the fabric of that vision will be straight
Dismissed, for that land we plagued lies faraway.

 

Leonore Wilson


Author: Leonore Wilson

Leonore Wilson taught English and creative writing for more than twenty years at various colleges and universities in the San Francisco bay area. Her new book of poetry is Western Solstice (Hiraeth Press, 2011). Her poetry, stories and essays have been published in such magazines as Quarterly West, Madison Review, Laurel Review, and Third Coast.

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