Downwind from Pecos, cedar scent invades our nostrils,
transparent as sky’s unreachable blue
until this cloud that is not a cloud but poison plume,
smoke rising imminent on horizon’s shoulder,
reminds us Los Alamos is on fire again,
its people ordered to leave again
just as eleven years ago, ordered to leave
in that orderly fashion,
lines of careful cars, each keeping its distance
from the one in front.
Voracious cloud chews mountain ridge, spews ash,
its bloated belly menacing orange glow.
Thirty thousand 55-gallon drums of nuclear waste
wait restive as the flames advance and leap,
and other fatal chemicals cross their fingers
in this game of Russian roulette.
Government spokesmen look directly
at the camera, force eyes to focus,
say there’s nothing to worry about:
like Fukushima Daiichi, or Fort Calhoun
trembling on the banks of the rising Missouri,
before them Chernobyl and Three Mile Island:
each time-bomb dressed in the reassuring lie
until blood drains from noses and ears, skin buckles
and internal organs trip over themselves
in their rush to an exit whose door melts
before we can reach its threshold of deliverance.
Margaret Randall grew up in New Mexico, and after many years away returned in 1984. The New Mexican space and light are important to her work. Most recent titles include AS IF THE EMPTY CHAIR / COMO SI LA SILLA VACIA (Wings Press), SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THE CORNFIELDS (Skylight Press), and RUINS (University of New Mexico Press). She is also a photographer, and often combines images and texts.