By Laura. E. J. Moran
(Found poem from “Common Sense and Civil Defense,” a pamphlet by Martin Caidin, Metropolitan Broadcasting Aerospace Correspondent for WNEW, NY, 1961.)
Foreword: Down To Brass Tacks
What we face,
there isn’t any need to explain it to you.
Respect the danger of atomic war.
You are not aware.
Fact: we can be right from the outset.
Atomic and hydrogen bombs both add up
to hell. It doesn’t matter—
just doesn’t matter.
Radiation (third degree
burns on exposed human skin sixty miles away
from the bomb.)
In all directions, you get
You’ll hear instantaneous
vast floods, explosion. An academic point: if
you are that close, the world is going to cave in. If
that day ever comes, when the bombs start to fall,
you won’t be interested.
Another pitfall: facts.
Figures, statistics, charts, graphs, tables: meaningless,
The first nuclear weapon
shattered the slumber of millions for years afterward
just as our sleep is troubled now.
So here we go…
The answer: too big an area.
Too many ifs.
The Russians have been so noisy —
might not take out all of NY.
Accuracy, weather, altitude
reasonably tear the heart out
and likely kill if you are caught.
Let’s be honest — end of story
leads of course to feeling
hopeless. Why bother?
We are all going to die.
(Doom criers!) You believe.
Rough, rough — disaster: a nation,
complete destruction. Millions-
no-tens of millions! Protect yourself!
You are begging for all the bombs.
Russians, as we know (enemy:
many of our own airplanes, missiles,
rockets) have tremendous air.
OK. The Bomb Hits. Your House Is Flattened. What Next?
Know it better: 640/1240 AM.
Radio. Your only link. Don’t dismiss
thirst like a man lost in the desert.
Take full advantage. NOW:
and all television. In time of war, well,
this is how America defends itself.
Broadcast, for example,
in your own well-built hole
in the ground with your family,
sealed off from the world.
What’s happening now?
What’s going on? Is it safe?
Time is on your side.
Outside, the radiation level is 3,000 roentgens
(roentgen: a measurement
of radiation, like watts
in a light bulb, or horsepower in a car.)
You go out—
you are asking to die.
Two days, two nights, two weeks—
of course, more bombs can drop on your
… you don’t know!
So you listen, so you listen, so you wait.
It will get you…
“In three days, at two o’clock
be prepared for evacuation….”
What to wear?
Fire hose lines, food.
You can’t help your country. So —
Conelrad — your battery-operated, portable answer.
Laura E. J. Moran is the 1992 recipient of the Jean Garrigue Award and is studying for her MFA at Wilkes University. She tours throughout the country and abroad and headlines at universities, festivals, women’s organizations, literacy groups, coffee houses, and nightclubs. Her pieces appear in such publications as Defined Providence, Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapalooza 1994, Chokecherries: SOMOS Series Anthology 2002,The Unlikely Success of the Albuquerque Poetry Slam (2008, UNM Press,) and forthcoming in Redactions: I-90 Revolution. In 2004, she received a New York Foundation of the Arts grant for Emerging Writers at the Center for the Book Arts in New York City. She is also the curator of the First Fridays Contemporary Writers Series in residency at the Western Sullivan Public Library in Narrowsburg, NY for six years.