Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dennis Villelmi writes


Like gladiatorial steel in observance of an ionized Caesar
   returned from the East in our age of after Trinity.
The last minutes of Pompeii have been handed down to us now;
Gray Vespasian mushrooms as rival to the sun:
   on both horizons, his likeness.

To Moscow; to Pyongyang; Beijing and NATO:
   your tridents, nets, and shields long on display,
How they herald the last minutes in this, our Nuclear Vesuvius.
In those last minutes we watched you salute "Caesar"
   before you kicked up the dust and DNA;

Of news, the headlines half-broadcast, calling us to the
   Atomic Colosseum for the final minutes of Bikini Revisited.
"The Lucky Dragon, and the Five Suns Fished With Fission,"
That was the name of the spectacle, and it was an oblique rematch
    between Hercules and igneous Eternity.

The civil minutes have given way to gathering our children
    into the residual temples of the morrow.

Where we march cottonmouthed, the marrow of our bones begins
The psalms of lament; half-blinded we are to the Advent of Nero's Rain.

We have become Los Alamos;
    like the minutes before the world fell, we now
Count ourselves away. 

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  1. Trinity was the code name for the 1st detonation of a nuclear weapon (5:29 AM, 16 July 1945) at the US Army Air Force Alanogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in the Jornada del Murto ("Journey of the Dead Man")desert, 35 mi (56 km) from Socorro, New Mexico. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, inspired by John Donne's Holy Sonnet 14:

    Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
    As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
    That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
    Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
    I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
    Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
    Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
    But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
    Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
    But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
    Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

    Oppeneim related this to another Donne poem, "Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness":

    Since I am coming to that holy room,
    Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
    I shall be made thy music; as I come
    I tune the instrument here at the door,
    And what I must do then, think here before.

    Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
    Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
    Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
    That this is my south-west discovery,
    Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

    I joy, that in these straits I see my west;
    For, though their currents yield return to none,
    What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
    In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
    So death doth touch the resurrection.

    Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
    The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
    Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
    All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
    Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

    We think that Paradise and Calvary,
    Christ's cross, and Adam's tree, stood in one place;
    Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
    As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
    May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.

    So, in his purple wrapp'd, receive me, Lord;
    By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
    And as to others' souls I preach'd thy word,
    Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
    "Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down."

    Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, was established in 1942, near Santa Fe, as the center for design and overall coordination of the Manhattan Project. The site was chosen by Oppenheimer, who had spent time in the area as a youth. Two atomic bombs were used on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, ending World war II. The next tests, Operation Crossroads, were conducted over Bikini atoll in July 1946: the 1st of these tests was Able (the test bomb was "Gilda" (named after the 1946 movie starring Rita Hayworth) ; the 2nd was Baker (the bomb was "Helen of Bikini"). The Bikini tests (23 in all) continued until 1958. Four days after Able, mechanical engineer Louis Réard introduced the "bikini" swimwear, who hoped it would create an "explosive commercial and cultural reaction" similar in intensity to the social reaction to the nuclear tests. He promoted it by claiming that "like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating."

  2. Pompeii and Herculaneum were Roman towns that were destroyed when the nearby volcano Mons Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79, releasing 100,000 times more thermal energy than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The volcano and Herculaneum were both founded by Hercules, the chief deity of the area, while Venus was the patroness of Pompeii. On 24 June, Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus died after ruling the empire for a decade, seizing power after Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus committed suicide. As he lay dying he remarked, "Dear me, I think I'm becoming a god." In 64 much of Roma was destroyed by fire, which Nero had caused in order to construct his own massive palace named the Domus Aurea ("Golden House"); he blamed the Christians for the arson and had many executed in gladiatorial games. As part of the palace's design Nero had a gigantic bronze statue of himself installed, which was eventually moved to the Flavian Amphitheater which became popularly known in the Middle Ages as the Colosseum.

    On 1 March 1954 the "Daigo Fukuryū Maru" (Lucky Dragon #5), a Japanese tuna fishing boat, was contaminated near Bikini by fallout from Operation Bravo, the 1st lithium-deuteride-fueled thermonuclear weapon, the most powerful nuclear device detonated by the US, about 1,000 times more powerful than the 2 bombs that closed the 2nd World War. The boat's chief radioman died in September, the 1st hydrogen bomb fatality. Another crew member was hospitalized for over 1 year. The survivors were shunned (like the hibakusha, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors) due to the common belief that their radiation injuries were contagious. The incident was the impetus behind the 1st "Gojira" (Godzilla) movie. Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet Ran composed "Japon Balıkçısı" (The Japanese Fishermen) in 1956:

    Those who eat the fish we caught, die.
    Those who touch our hands, die,
    This ship is a black coffin,
    you'll die if you come up the gangplank.

    Those who eat the fish we caught, die,
    not straight away, but slowly,
    slowly their flesh rots, falls off.
    Those who eat the fish we caught, die.

    Those who touch our hands, die.
    Our loyal, hardworking hands
    washed by salt and sun.
    Those who touch our hands, die,
    not straight away, but slowly,
    slowly their flesh rots, falls off.
    Those who touch our hands, die.

    Almond Eyes, forget me.
    This ship is a black coffin,
    you'll die if you come up the gangplank.
    The cloud has passed over us.

    Almond Eyes, forget me.
    Don't hug me my darling,
    you'll catch death from me.
    Almond Eyes, forget me.

    This ship is a black coffin.
    Almond Eyes, forget me.
    The child you have from me
    will be rotten from a rotten egg.
    This ship is a black coffin.
    This sea is a dead sea.
    Human beings, where are you?
    Where are you?
    --tr.Richard Mckane


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