White Sands

“Doctor has just returned most enthusiastic and confident
that the little boy is as husky as his big brother. The light in
his eyes discernible from here to High Hold and I could
have heard his screams from here to my farm.”

—from a coded cable delivered to Harry S. Truman on July 17, 1945

i.

Whipped to soft peaks by incessant wind,
the gypsum dunes hiss as they rise and settle.
Darkling beetles shamble through the ricegrass

in search of decaying leaves. Their little lives
are not a lesson in perspective; they
are simply there, the way Paramylodon,

a giant sloth, once walked past Lake Otero
before it dried to mudflats, where scientists
found theory in a print within a print:

Pleistocene humans stalking one such creature,
despite the claws, the clusters of bony plates
embedded in skin along its back and neck.

But why? Real hunger will motivate a man
only so much. Dissenting minds suspect
they might have done it for the thrill of courting

a force they could provoke, but not contain.
Fossil proof is brittle, but the sloth
is now extinct. That much is safe to say.

ii.

Blazing the pure white sand to jadeite glass,
“The Gadget” bursts with its iconic plume,
ending an era. Famously, Oppenheimer

thinks of the Gita as the fallout spreads.
In comes a quiet like no other quiet.
There is still time. The dead are not yet dead.

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he is also the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in Syracuse.
Nicholas Friedman

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Author: Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he is also the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in Syracuse.