At The Bomb Testing Site

Jerry Harp’s commentary in the Kenyon Review brought this poem back to mind. Always good to be reminded of William Stafford.

At The Bomb Testing Site

by William Stafford

At noon in the desert a panting lizard
waited for history, its elbows tense,
watching the curve of a particular road
as if something might happen.

It was looking at something farther off
than people could see, an important scene
acted in stone for little selves
at the flute end of consequences.

There was just a continent without much on it
under a sky that never cared less.
Ready for a change, the elbows waited.
The hands gripped hard on the desert.

These gorgeous New Mexico landscapes from Georgia O’Keeffe provide a contrast with the disturbing apocalyptic images of Nevada testing by Robert Beckmann below. Tunnel vision indeed.

Black Mesa Landscape, Georgia OKeeffe 1930

Rust Red Hills, Georgia OKeeffe 1930

My Front Yard Summer 1941, Georgia O’Keeffe

Watchers, Robert Beckmann 1995
Reporters wore protective goggles to witness the detonation of the 1952 test of a 31 kiloton bomb.

Tunnel Vision, Robert Beckmann 1997

Detail from The Lizard by M.C.Escher.

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