On hearing of Paul Tibbets’s death--November 1, 2007
You could say “I’ve seen it all baby”
and no one could dispute that.
At 92, you’d lived to say “I have no
regrets”-- even while remembering
the blue flash of light, the mushroom cloud
you must have seen as beautiful and clean
when the plane you piloted
circled the dark island one last time.
It was you, Mr. Tibbets who pushed the button
and let drop the “Little Boy,”
that made history for you and it,
ended one kind of war and started another.
And that the thing beneath you slipped out
like a baby, waiting to be born,
overdue and eager to make contact
with life, made it somehow less regrettable.
Even in death, you’ll be murmuring,
“I have no regrets,” in the belly of the plane
where they’ll drop your ashes
over the great ocean to avoid
a burial site, a headstone
that would attract detractors who still assert
that any man who spreads death,
no matter how and in what form,
whether in the cockpit, under a heavy vest
of munitions, or sitting behind a round table—
cannot say, “I have no regrets.”
No, you didn’t invent destruction
and you didn’t perfect it either.
Before you partnered with the cold machine
that you gave your mother’s sweet-
sounding name, “Enola Gay,”
plenty of others before you let loose
their furor and terror.
They were never heroes though, never
given the power to think
their beautiful violence
would save somebody, save
this shattered world
from more shattering.
And many more came after
who never lost a wink of sleep
when their blankets of death
covered a corner of the planet.
Men like Pol Pot and Kissinger,
Pinochet and Bin Laden.
All of them resting easy
in warm beds or some other
place they might call heaven.
Mr. Tibbets, I bid you a hero’s farewell
and say I’m sorry
that you didn’t get to know
how much more human a man is
when he lives to regret
Persis M. Karim lives in the Berkeley, CA with her husband and two sons. She teaches literature and creative writing at San Jose State University and is editor and contributing poet to Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006). She can be reached at http://www.persiskarim.com.