Extract/cleanse/inject—except no matter how often
you repeat the refrain, the melody still comes out wrong

Northern New Mexico
Impossible – Oppie – not to see – from my back portal –
your Los Alamos redoubt – your storied atomic ivory tower –

Impossible not to conjure you – as I traverse Rio Grande’s
valley and mythic river – pass Pueblos old as the Crusades –

where monitors track your ghosts that yet stalk Indian Country –
after from your sanctuary’s conflicted precocity they escape

Impossible – for me at least – not to picture you – pipe
or cigarette in hand – standing at blackboard – chalking

nuclei’s music – as if before a choir of school children –
era’s brightest minds – who – without benefit of machine’s

intellect – tinker-toy the atom’s end to World War II –
before you – with muted fanfare – barely turn forty

Impossible – not to reflect on you – as I enter clinic here –
to heal effects of other – virtually untamable – radiation –

sun’s photons – piercing – at light speed – my skin –
another carcinoma to be deleted from my life – more –

sadly – than I can say for yours – ever present icons
of smoke – of genius never at rest – thinking – thinking –

but not – until too late – of your voice’s fragile instrument
that changes history – and ignites early finality of your own

Impossible to forget wraiths invisible – toxic plumes of chromium –
birthed in your lab’s cooling towers – dancing their way deep

underground – seeping/weeping – into groundwater destined
to marry with Puebloan aquifers – even the Rio Grande itself –

singing beneath me – while your choral progeny – hitting
same notes over and over – refuse to say when lethality’s waltz

will end – if ever


Note: Oppenheimer dies of throat cancer at 62. “Extract/cleanse/inject”:
Lyric of futility in government’s efforts to purge atom age carcinogens.