And I Fear

In siloes and cradles, carefully cool, air-conditioned, checked continually, watched and tended by technicians, our stockpiles wait the one-time call that speeds them and converts them from mere matter webbed with circuitry to a local, uncontrollable sun.

The triggered clock cuts off the dark and all the nightmares of the other side and Pop! my mushroom of a brain blooms again, dewy and ready to be sucked dry all day. The sun, its hardly dangerous soft radiation on, sweats me from my limbo and I see, the unstable room still solid in its unexploded light. My day gapes before me like the door, opening on all the world I have, still there, reprieve granted from the final heat.

I am an outpatient, a man qualified by certain drugs. It took shock to fry me from my neutral stall, but, all that Brownian motion stopped, I’m turned loose on the world, bracketed by a pair of pills setting my upper, my lower bounds.

In my kitchen, the stove-snake cooks my food, and at night its split electric tongue dangles the apple by which I wait to sleep, for I was born to the broadcast radiation, and Big Boy’s ghost fell out into my bones, sighing in my marrow its long decay, forshortening my half-life until I knew this is the morning I will live or die.

It was in the army, in Japan, at Hiroshima I lost my common sense, and stopped for all my personal time being numb with the millions of the expected dead. The museum there has uncommon stones stamped with the shadows of that summers leaves, and still the people of the city say how some are never either sick or well, and others, cut, don’t heal: I puzzled doctors at the base by waiting awake for several days; when my white blood-count went low, they flew me back, amazed at what the mind can do: DISCHARGED

My static still low enough to work, I took a job in some big building, filing away my forty hours and more, in an alphabetical sub-basement room, but through the walls of files I felt the background radiation rise, and when I filed schematics for the sixteenth sub-assembly of a missile, to get away from the geiger’s roar, I jammed my nerves to one white noise of a neural snow and nothing did me any good or any harm.

Burnt out of that and six feet tall again, I rattle between the ups and downs, bracketed by a pair of pills setting my upper, my lower bounds. Before the bar of that double governor, my range and domain were all the short way to the near end of human time, and though the leveling drug has landscaped me to relative calm, nothing can trick the final eye, the ear that’s tuned to the coming sun, the nerves set for the heat: I see walls fail, my skin reads radiation everywhere, in the mushroom of my brain I hear the hydrogen’s confusion, the helium’s crisp answer and I fear.

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