December 15th, 2009



December 14, 2009


They test the rockets at odd times,
and I wonder if the neighbors cringe as much as I do
when the rumble comes to our street on a Sunday at 5:00,
abrasive, like sheets of metal shaken by a tall machine.

From certain hills you can see the tower, the tester,
the only riser in the forbidden part of Huntsville.
Some places you need a badge to get into;
you have to write down your cousin’s married name,
and exactly how many generations your spouse is
from a foreign mother tongue.

They didn’t tell me before we moved here,
but this city is high on the list of places
that are targets for nuclear attack.
I was 11 when I saw the second tower collapse on TV,
but I remember how it happened on a quiet, sunny day.
Since that morning we have lived with the Fear.

The first time I heard the testing was in August,
visiting the Botanical Gardens with my sisters.
In the calm, bright lair of every flower, I called home,
listening for the shockwave.
“Did something happen?” I asked my mother.
“Is everything okay?”
She couldn’t hear the rumble that came to take us.

I looked for the speck of a bomber in the clear, hot sky,
and pulled my sisters onto the bench beside me.
We would die among the vines and the colors,
our shadows burned into the concrete walk.

Nothing came. The rumble faded.
Somewhere, in a room with no windows,
men with badges cheered, or sighed.
We left the Gardens and drove home,
spooked by the voice of this town.

“Oh,” you said months later, “yeah, the testing. You get used to it.”

I remember that day, looking up through the leaves,
a waterfall tinkling somewhere in the distance
as the rockets roared.

Each Sunday morning, each Wednesday afternoon,
for two minutes, the Fear goes on forever.