Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bad Break

Many, if not most, poems have a story behind them, an occasion or emotion or trigger event. The poem Bad Break originated as a response to the unsettling sensation of growing up in a world where nuclear winter was an ever-present danger.

I’m not sure how much fear fire drills create, but there was something ominous about the widespread practice of air raid drills and what to do in the event of a nuclear war. Just as today’s Homeland Security processes for travelers keep evolving, so did our air raid drill instructions. I remember at one point we were all lined up and marched to nearby houses so we could hide in basements around the neighborhood. Evidently this was deemed time consuming and our later air raid drills involved getting seated in the hallways with our backs to the lockers, heads down between our knees, hands folded behind our necks. The place you did not want to be was in a room with large plate glass windows.

Either the threat of war diminished or the fears instilled by all this preparation resulted in our not needing to go through with these exercises. Or someone somewhere determined that it was all foolish futility anyways should those death bombs fly.

To be honest I still worry a bit about the bombs, knowing how many missiles are still out there, aiming here, there and everywhere.

Bad Break

agitation
face white
deep breath
hold tight
run down
look round
hope hard
underground

ten seconds
ten years
dull moans
shrieked fears
wild thoughts
no tears
eyes wide
all ears
push shove
hide fast
screen view
whole past

breathe deep
make haste
taste death
bad taste
sky tear
bright light
no air
stomach tight

flame flash
all ash

e. 1975

This poem originally appeared in print in Zenith City Arts in 1987.
Photo: Ed Newman Lightwerx Series

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