My Mother, The Atom Bomb Maker

Written by RitaC on February 25th, 2014

My Mother, The Atom Bomb Maker


Fresh off the farm, a Mrs., a mother,

twenty-one years of living,

you came to work in the town

that didn’t exist on any map.


Tennessee, 65 cents an hour,

far more than birthing calves,

hoeing beans, baking cornbread,

tending to your baby, helping your mama.


Just up the road 40 miles, brand-new

buildings, a field of red mud so thick

you carried store-bought saddle oxfords

high above your hair, feet squishing in the muck.


In your building, a vague smell of metal,

gauges, chemical tanks you scrubbed while

flyboys bombed Europe, sailors scoured

the Pacific, one of them your Mr.


How were you to know,

how was anyone to know, that

uranium split into the power

of small sun would write history?


The secrecy endowed mystery

to your life, why nothing was ever

produced that you could see,

that anyone could see.


You blossomed into a beauty,

a flower behind your ear in one picture,

in another, the tallest in a crisp white uniform,

farm-tough, the leader of your group.


In your dorm, you learned nail polish–red–

lipstick–red–and face powder not meant for

the farm but a perfect blush for days and nights,

a small beacon, like so many in the shadow of the mountains.


When a second sunrise in as many days

lit up a land half-way around the world,

your voice called for answers:

How safe was this work?


Is it any wonder, the bossman in his suit

whispered “undesirable” creating a chain-reaction

leading to your “termination” (they called it),

releasing you into the freedom you helped win.


After the rent in the earth, your heart began

Mending from its own attack and you began

Living the peace that had come,

Living the peace that had cost.


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