Page I

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 nuclear exchange?
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
          his way!
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
          of megadeath?
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
          galactic tongue?
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
          phosphorescent bricks!
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
          jail sentence?
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
          to planet.
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    page 1
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