The Day After
for Joseph Lee Rykiel,
who believed the end
was near, and so it came closer, drinking himself
into wild turkey oblivion, until he saw the light,
and it was the hydrogen bomb
To what shall I compare the earth the day after
Shall I begin by counting the warheads as grains of sand, soon
enough to fill all the beaches of cape cod?
Shall I begin by numbering the days to Armageddon and start
counting backwards until I fall asleep?
Shall I begin by saying that bomb now wears the disguise of
terrorist mailman, has all our addresses in his plutonium
Shall I say that unlike human being bomb has never wanted to be
alone, has gathered unto himself all the resources of
Europe America and the Soviet Union?
Shall I say bomb has no need of human fixtures the waterfaucet
the incandescent bulb the doorlatch, that he comes and
goes as he pleases among the heads of state?
Shall I say that it was bomb thought up the appropriations poured
the cement wired the electric circuits, that it is bomb
repairs the B-52 runways of nuclear oblivion?
Shall I say that bomb has been done without sexual relations, is
fruitful and multiplies upon the face of the earth and
is rising even now into the glory of the sky?
Shall I say then that bomb is god greater than Zeus Caesar Allah
and Jehovah rolled into one, exacts his tribute into
the hundreds of billions of dollars?
Shall I say bomb sits content in judgment at electromagnetic
vanishing point of history, with a wink of his cosmic
eye wishes us all good luck?
Shall I say bomb is eleventh and final plague upon the house of
humankind? Woe! Woe unto them who would step into
One trident submarine has more explosive power than all armies
in warfare history.
What plebiscite commissioned monstrosity?
What ivy league graduate signed his name to requisition form
Who broke champagne bottle against hull of apocalypse sea
What annapolis crackpot pandered congressional seal of approval?
What will good housekeeping have to say about the mess?
What crime great enough in the making to stir conscience of
Who woke up in the middle of the night with this bright idea
I want to know!
Shall I go on and say there is intelligent life in the universe
that knows nothing of these plans and lives in peace
O where are you now?
Shall I issue my appeal for help in some as yet unknown
Shall I say they might be able to teach an old and dying species
a new trick or two?
What odds, Jimmy the Greek?
Which roulette table, Las Vegas?
How to get from here to there?
Will secret service transport presidential entourage the day
after by rickshaw?
Will soviet politburo have to walk to work?
How many tibetans on their way to marketplace when the big one
rock 'n rolls the himalayas?
Will washington burn down the house to roast its russian bear?
How many flights down fire escape of empire state?
How far into the earth to protect the federal reserve board?
What ventilation system necessary for survival of human race?
O now I can foretell the silence of transatlantic cable.
O now I can foretell the yearning of silverware.
O now I can foretell the desperation of baby stroller.
O now I can hear the lament of whale song rolling over and over
in its oceanic grave.
O now I can hear the death knell of church bell over the
remaining outposts of the human race.
O now I can measure the hope the day after in a teaspoon.
President of USA is compulsive gambler with humanity.
President of USA is thermonuclear junkie.
US economy needs plutonium fix to get itself going in the
morning and out the door.
Secretary of Defense has needle marks from shooting Cesium 137.
White House staff gets its kicks snorting enriched uranium.
Congress speeding its brain on fissionable material.
Fortune 500 military-industrial complex has hopeless bellyache
from guzzling radioactive waste soon will be shitting
Shall I now appeal to prurient interests and say that arms race
obscene, worthy of expulsion from granite halls of
senile and stammering Congress?
Shall I say forthright the National Security Council is drunk
with power and demand a sobriety test and mandatory
Shall I introduce my disarmament idea to the intelligence
agencies as the next great emancipator?
What amber waves of grain?
What purple mountain majesties?
What heavenly tenderness take hold in the American heartland
to stem the tide of such madness?
O tell me how many generations henceforth can dance on the
nosecone of a ballistic missile?
O tell me could the great houdini get out of the straightjacket
of deterrence alive?
Does Europe like Garbo just want to be left alone?
What riddle will sphinx think up the next time around?
How many nuclear wolf alerts before unbelievable happens?
What alice in wonderland dare come back through the looking
glass into this world the day after nuclear exchange?
Where will the spirit of christmas past go?
How far over the rainbow to escape the fallout?
O scarecrow of the impossible ground zero!
O tin man with your heart in your throat!
O cowardly lion! Who will be king now?
O Dorothy! How return home to irradiated Kansas?
O wizard! What wicked magician let this one out of the
trap door in Pandora's box?
I say now that it will take a million gandhis to bring peace
I say now it will take a million einstein brains to outwit
diabolical brain of missile launch system.
I say now it will take four score and seven generations
to undo damage already done by bomb.
Hopelessness of the young thy name is bomb.
All the young born under the sign of bomb.
How to cope with premonition of the end of the world?
So long until tomorrow, Lowell Thomas!
One giant leap for mankind, Neil Armstrong!
A penny saved is a penny earned, Ben Franklin!
Some pigs are more equal than others, George Orwell!
Strawberry fields forever, Lennon and McCartney!
I shall return, Douglas MacArthur!
All the news that's fit to print!
Remember the Alamo!
Peace is at hand!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh!
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!
Provincetown, MA - Venice, CA
August 1983 - July 1984
The Day After
Poem Against the Reagan Administration page 2
At a Rally in Washington Against the Draft page 2
America Revisited page 3
Poems for a Small Place to Rest page 4 page 5 page 6
What He Would Not Tell Him page 7
Waking Poem page 7
Moon page 7
Laborers page 7
Spring 1980 page 7
Lebanon 1982 page 8
As the Latin American War Approaches page 8
Poem for Immediate Disarmament page 8
To Whom It May Concern page 9
Song of the Little Girl page 10
to the collection The
Book of Awakenings