Downwind from Pecos

by Margaret Randall

Downwind from Pecos, cedar scent
invades our nostrils,
transparent as sky’s unreachable blue

until this cloud that is not cloud
but poison plume,
smoke rising imminent on horizon’s shoulder,

reminds us Los Alamos is on fire
its people ordered to leave again

just as eleven years ago, ordered
to leave
in that orderly fashion, lines of

careful cars, each keeping its
from the one in front.

Voracious cloud, chewing mountain ridge,
spews ash,
menacing orange glows in its bloated belly,

30,000 55 – gallon drums of nuclear waste

wait restive
as flames advance and leap,

and other fatal chemicals cross their fingers
in this game
of Russian roulette.

Spokesmen look directly into the camera
force eyes
to focus, say there’s nothing

to worry about: like Fukushima Daiichi,
or Fort Calhoun
trembling on the banks of the rising Missouri,

before them Chernobyl and Three Mile Island:
each time bomb
dressed in the reassuring lie

until blood drains from noses and ears
skin buckles

and internal organs trip over themselves

in their rush to an exit whose door
before we reach its threshold of deliverance.