Friday Poem

“The militarization of light has been widely acknowledged as a historical rupture that brought into being a continuous Nuclear Age, but less understood is the way in which our bodies are written by these wars of light.”–– Elizabeth DeLoughrey, “Radiation Ecologies and the Wars of Light” (2009)

Nuclear Family


In the beginning, Izanagi and Izanami stood
on the bridge of heaven and stirred the sea
with a jeweled spear until the first island was born.
……… Then one day, men who claimed to be gods
said: “Let there be atomic light,” and there was a
blinding flash, a mushroom cloud, and radiating fire.
“This will end all wars,” they said. “This will
bring peace to the divided world.”


In the beginning, Áłtsé Hastiin and Áłtsé Asdzą́ą́,
ascended from the First World of darkness
until they reached the glittering waters
of this Fourth World, where the yellow snake,
Leetso, dwelled underground.
……… Then one day, men who claimed to be gods
said: “Let there be uranium,” and they dug
a thousand unventilated mines. They unleashed
Leetso and said: “This will enrich us all.”


In the beginning, Lowa spoke the islands
into being and created four gods to protect
each direction. The first people emerged
from a wound in Lowa’s body.
……… Then one day, men who claimed to be gods
said: “Let there be thermonuclear light,” and there were
countless detonations. And they said: “Bravo!
This is for the good of mankind.”


In the beginning, Fu’una transformed the eyes
of Puntan into the sun and moon, and his back
into an island. Then her body transformed
into stone and birthed my people.
……… Then one day, men who claimed to be gods
said: “Let there be bone seeker,” and trade winds
rained strontium 90 upon us, and irradiated ships
were washed in our waters. And they said:
“This is for national security.”


In the beginning, Wolf created earth from mud.
Then his younger brother, Coyote, carried
a woven basket full of the first people to the Great Basin.
……… Then one day, men who claimed to be gods
said: “Let there be plowshare,” and the desert
cratered, and white dust snowed upon the four corners.
And they said: “This is for peaceful construction.”


In the beginning, there was no contamination.
Then the men who claimed to be gods said:
“Let there be fallout,” and our sacred homes
and bodies became proving grounds, waste dumps,
and tailings. “Let there be fallout,” and there was
a chain reaction of leukemia and lymphoma,
miscarriages and birth defects, lung and liver cancer,
breast and uterus cancer, thyroid and bone cancer.
……… And we learned that there is no half-life of grief
when a loved one dies from radiation disease.
There is no half-life of sorrow when our children
inherit this toxic legacy, this generational
and genetic aftermath, this fission of worlds.


In the beginning, there was peace. Let there be peace
for Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Marshall Islands.
Let there be peace for the Navajo and Shoshone Nations.
Let there be peace for Mororua, Fangataufa, In Ekker,
Kirimati, Maralinga, and Amchitka. Let there be peace
for Malan, Montebello Islands, Malden Island, Pokhran,
and Ras Koh Hills. Let there be peace for Chagai District,
Semipalatinsk, Novaya Zemlya, Three Mile Island,
Chernobyl, Punggye-ri, and Fukushima. Let there be
peace for the downwinders, from Guam to Utah to
every radiation ecology and every irradiated species.
……… Let there be the safe disposal of waste and the cleaning
of abandoned mines. Let there be the disarmament
of the violent nucleus within nations. Let there be
a proliferation of peace across our atomic cartography.
Let there be healing, justice, and fair compensation
for our entire nuclear family. Let there be stories
of creation, not stories of annihilation, for our sublime
children, so they can illuminate radiant futures.

by Craig Santos Perez
Ecotheo Review
Spring 2019June 26, 2019