Love Songs to a Bomb: another fool project


With my first collection now on sale and a draft verse novel now having a wee rest for a month or so, what better time to start another writey project thingy! And so here I am researching and writing a kind of poetic response to the nuclear weapons tests carried out in Australia by the British during the 1950s, a series of events that many know little about (if at all). The project began initially with the title Love Songs to a Bomb but as it develops, I’m finding the voice and tone switching in and out of the initially intended one. Either way, I’m finding myself drawn deeper and deeper into the murk of what is one of the most shameful chapters of Australia’s Cold War and colonial history. The piece below is the working draft of the first of a sequence of poems, each one responding to one of the test explosions. The first explosion – Operation Hurricane – was carried out in a lagoon in the Montebellos Islands in 1952. A second test was also inflicted on Montebellos in 1956 during Operation Mosaic. Ugly stuff but here’s to new projects!

Hurricane / Mosaic

Summon all your gods,
raze the earth,
sink all your ships ,
gouge the sea

Call Shiva the destroyer into mind
as Montebello shakes an arcing back
and rises into little death-
an orgasm for empire

Measure a magnificent turbulence,
calculate a dread pattern
define a problem they will come
in time to call
not so much radiological
as aesthetic

As fire turns the sea to ash
breathe a puff of smoke to sky
and leave the scopophilic newsmen
gathered on the mainland shaking,
guilty palms all sweating

Watch toroidal smoke rise
into the morning blue,
coalesce a cloud appearing first pink,
then fade to mauve,
then dimming into brilliant white
to crown the fading of a second sun,
a cloud whipped east- south- east
to fall at last, descending as a dark,
as ash across the earth

A grief to echo in the keening crack of sky
above a stark and haunted field
of Maralinga- a grief to bury deep in sands
cursed and named for thunder

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