Three Mile Island

I still dream of those snowy white smokestacks,
permanent mushroom clouds.
The way the news cameras caught them in the flaming
sunrise over the Susquehanna. It was late March,
but when I remember the meltdown, it seems like summer.
Maybe it was that fear of being cooked or the earth
opening up and sinking us all to China.
I wanted to be there, wearing plaid pants, wide collar
jacket and Dad’s Vitalis slicking back my hair.
Wanted that microphone, puffed like cotton candy
against my lips in near hysteria at the scoop of 1979.
I couldn’t sleep for five days, waiting for the hydrogen
bubble to burst and kill us all. Pennsylvania seemed
really close when I was 10 and the doomsday mass
held by the Harrisburg priest didn’t help. He offered
general absolution and I, not even a Catholic,
not having yet set foot in a church, quietly prayed
to be a witness, an Armageddon altar boy.
In school, they used to make you crawl under a desk
with your hands locked over your head, as if this could
save you from the bomb. Fuck that.
If I’m going to be incinerated, I don’t want the slow
leaching death of cancer. I want to be standing
at the window as the flash comes, like those soldiers
at Trinity 1945, sunglasses reflecting a fire that should
have never been conjured, the wind in my hair.

– Collin Kelley 
from Render


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