Going Up to Hanford

by Ursula Whitcher

I am trying to trust rainbows, though I know
they lie three ways. The easy lie,
five markers and a popcorn-puff, saying, You have to smile.
The old lie, a path out, under the leaf-mould,
coins so light, flaking like leaves.
Then the family warning. Look, where the river bends
there was a gray building, turned and flared,
like a vase shaped on a wheel. They named it Trojan. It became
a shell that cracked. Keep going east.
The river’s wide. The sturgeons trail its bed
with beards like fingers. The river’s cold, so cold.
You need that, if you break the world apart.
I’m not here for a grand disaster. I am here
to tell you about rainbows. Look, the waste,
the sludge left over when the atom split,
they left it out in open vats. Somebody had sunglasses,
the new kind, turned so only half the light
passed through its lens gates. They dipped them in the vats.
The light split out, the rainbow swirled and splashed.
I want to say we know better. I want to say light splits freely
through the droplets as you lift your kayak paddle,
that the sturgeon grumbles, in the green, in the dark,
that the sturgeon will still be here, in a hundred years.

Copyright © 2022 by Ursula Whitcher



Featured Poet of the Month Ursula Whitcher

Ursula Whitcher is a mathematician, writer, and editor who grew up near the Willamette River and now lives near the Huron (or on Twitter as @superyarn). Ursula's poetry and fiction can also be found in Climbing Lightly Through Forests, Cossmass Infinities, and Liminality.