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Wednesday, October 19, 2005


by Kathleen Sullivan

Two days after the bright ball of light,
the smoke and blast of fireworks

over Times Square dispersed
for a little while both the heavy chill

of winter and the dread of a nation,
in a makeshift maternity ward

of an Army Hospital where
sullen nurses were gypped

of the laurels of restoring crippled
soldiers—I was born. Later

that year, in the sweltering season
another kind of fireworks

split minds open to the fresh
physics of power; made obsolete

in one blink, those old atomistic
pictures of ourselves as hard

glass marbles spinning in blissful
autonomy; bestowed on us

new ways to be very afraid,
to act like the gods, to suffer.

Energy, which would have made
even Zeus cry and throw down

his bolt of lightning, energy
like a million gold chariots

ascending into the heavens—
blossomed over a city in Japan

and flower, child, stone,
cup disappeared into a pure flow

of light, shadows burnt black
onto walls. What does it mean

to be born in nineteen forty-five?
Buried in the dank

space behind our basement's
knotty pine walls were tall stacks

of aerial photographs, "Reconnaissance"
"Top Secret" scrawled in red ink

across each glossy face.
Something about those pictures

we knew never to ask
my father—and sneaking peeks

I might as well have been looking
at pictures of naked men:

it seemed somehow so awful.
Did all our fathers have secrets?

If you tell me yours
I will tell you mine.

On clear nights, with photo-
sensitive film in his knapsack,

my father strode under the palm trees
of some South Seas island,

and over the sand, climbed
into a B52, flew through

the stars to Hiroshima. Telling
this, all I can see is a forest

of fuliginous mushrooms, each
fungal body solitary, breeding

underground in dirt cellars. Mush-
rooms, the same metaphor

psychotherapists use for shame.
On this anniversary I ask who

are we, the children born in the year
Roosevelt's round "Little Boy"

dropped? Tiny and pink or brown,
tumbling in the air with dirty

atoms, minds and bodies open
like wounds, cunning bundles

of energy, growing into history
and already marked?

Kathleen Sullivan lives and works in Maine as a psychotherapist. She is also an MFA student in poetry at Stonecoast, in Maine. She has a poem entitled "Icy Lips" just published in Animus. Email Kathleen Sullivan.