Minuteman Missile: A Cold War Poem for Memorial Day

In the 20th Century my father loved his government job:
maintaining the well-calibrated heart of the nuclear arsenal.
He said, We can put one of those babies through a window
in the Kremlin after a 6000-mile flight. We made that here.
And, come Memorial Day, at the open house at the air base,
he’d show me his workbench in the cleanroom where dust
held its breath. Later, he might have almost nothing to say.
Maybe: Keep it down. I’m watching fucking 60 Minutes.

How he grew to love Minuteman missiles, the stockpile
whose reliable lethality he’d chosen to take ownership of.
Meaning, he thought about the consequences of the work.
Maybe he had the moral compass of a death camp guard,
but I loved that he sharpened the blade for the American
guillotine. That he visualized ICBMs unzipping the sky.
The hum and verdict of oscilloscopes was in his voice
when he said, You’re thinking about this too much.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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