Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Bomb Is Made


The bomb is made will drop on Rangitoto.
Be kind to one another, kiss a little
And let love-making imperceptibly
Grow inwards from a kiss. I’ve done with soldiering,
Though every day my leave-pass may expire.

The bomb is made will drop on Rangitoto.
The cell of death is formed that multiplied
Will occupy the lung, exclude the air
Be kind to one another, kiss a little-
The first goodbye might one day last forever.

The bomb is made will drop on Rangitoto.
The hand is born that gropes to press the button.
The prodigal grey generals conspire
To dissipate the birth-right of the Asians.
Be kind to one another, kiss a little.

The bomb is made will drop on Rangitoto.
The plane that takes off persons in a hurry
Is only metaphorically leaving town,
So if we linger we will be on time.
Be kind to one another, kiss a little.

The bomb is made will drop on Rangitoto.
I do not want to see that sun-burned harbour
Islandness as moon, red-skied again.
Its tide unblossomed, sifting wastes of ash.
Be kind to one another, kiss a little,
Our only weapon is this gentleness.

Keith Sinclair

This poem – one of my favourites – reflects its era, the Cold War at its height. It’s just over twenty years since the Berlin Wall came down, the beginning of the unravelling of the Soviet Union. Around the planet there was a relaxing unclenching of bodies – less likelihood of the nuclear conflict that could even lead to the annihilation of the species.

I was not so sanguine, too well-conditioned during that era when Sinclair wrote his poem. Novels like ‘On the Beach’ and ‘Failsafe’ reinforced those fears. During the Cuban missile crisis the world seemed to teeter on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. It didn’t happen. But it could have. Apparently the American High Command wanted to use tactical nuclear weapons in both Korea and Viet Nam. The country’s policy makers were obsessed with the possibility of a Soviet pre-emptive strike – understandable in light of Pearl Harbour. Thompson’s book on the Cold War that I recently read reveals that the Soviet leaders never contemplated using the weapons first but they were paranoid about the possibility the Americans might. Misunderstanding or miscalculation could trigger the conflagration.

So my stomach did not completely unroll when the Wall came down. There was always the possibility of a rogue general on either side going amok. The number of nuclear states was proliferating. The odds seemed to be that sooner or later one of them would be clot enough to unleash their arsenal. I could see Israel out of desperation or North Korea out of bluster resorting to this armoury. There was always the prospect of terrorists or criminals gaining and using weapons.

I’ve been to Hiroshima. See my blog 23 March this year.

I return to Sinclair’s poem. Using the iconic volcanic island of Rangitoto as his anchor point his reaction to the potential nucrlae horror is a mixture of resignation and indignation. There is little the ordinary person can do about it. Kissing (loving) and general acts of kindness are our best, indeed our only weapon against this monstrous possibility. Is gentleness enough? The poem captures the war-weary mood of his generation. The Auckland landscape minus Rangitoto is an almost unimaginable prospect. But it could happen.

I know! I know! Volcanoes can erupt. The result could be devastating. But I can live with Nature. It’s not our species’ fault. The nuclear thing is. We never learn. Witness Copenhagen. What a cheerful note to begin Christmas week. Enjoy the poem. It’s a good one.

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