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  • National Anthems in a Nuclear Era
  • Brian Tierney (bio)


O, say can you seeeee    us

from here? The Bomb answers Yes,      dear.


Like a wax statue in the low Italian sun, losing form, Il Duce’scorpse “flung to raging mob,” one subhead readsin a microfiche daily: how the partigiani men hung him    bat-inverted by his pilloried feetabove a street in Giulino. In the week that followed, a relativefrom Napoli sent clipped photos, a mockful noteto our people in the States. Which loosely I translate: ‘Ciao      Lucy—look at him        now: last year’s king. . . .’

3 nucleomituphobia

At present is the cherry-plum    just out of reach—I see itis poised to drop. I’m picturing, already,    something elsenot mentioned but, nonetheless, under-    stood to be waitingin that sealed-up place our dreaming    should’ve been, that desertbase where bright-green fields held forms [End Page 73]     of water, once, twicetheir size, cupolas of dew, moisture    we’re made of balancedon each individual blade I imagine now    as a word for mercyin a language I don’t know—&, so,    cannot be undoneat present. But even that word for grass    is a weapon.

4 A bridge is a symbol that stands for itself (like god, or soap, or the u.s. of a.), so when it fails, it fails two ways

— what they didn’t know, at first, as they lowered the men, known as sandhogs, in caissons in which they’d come to lay the foundations for the bridge into Brooklyn, was that the bends were a symptom, in fact, more of speed than depth—so if you decompressed them more gradually to the surface of the East River, on either of two sides of the soon-to-be pylons, you, meaning the you of ownership, could save, in the end, by ensuring not one man went home with paralysis like a vise crushing knuckles, or gas in the gut like worms eating through a soft summer peach. Even that symbol forgets the hand that picked it. To define bridge is to define, too, gaps it bridges or bridged, & the silence of gaps it did or didn’t. So: bridge, as in bridge key, yes, of an oboe or clarinet; but bridge, also, to a gunner, meant two pieces of lumber between the transoms of the carriages in the war against The Axis—as in bridge to nowhere. Or temporary bridges, as in tying some brush into crossable pallets to fight the Germans, sometimes called flying bridges, which is also one of two names given to certain ships’ decks with views aft-ward, & fore-ward, & all sides of the ships. And some of them have wings. And some of them, the flying-bridges, or fly-bridges, like the larger deck of the HMS Queen Mary (The Gray Ghost, as was affectionately known), filled with men who preferred not to sleep underneath, where warhead torpedoes or magnet mines could stealthily hit, despite zag-paths meant to shake them, Dominic (my grandpa) said, of the load-crew division, w/furloughs in Glasgow. How Brits bombed by night the intricate refineries in Ploesti, Romania, bursting, he said, all at once like embers to a boot, like strategic Vichy bridges they’d target, too, in dark, like some cities he said he’d heard they named the plane for the mother of the pilot who birthed the bomb dubbed little boy, who grew into a cloud. Dom, it is said, never ate lamb or pudding skins again. [End Page 74]


As billiards go boom, as the digits

scatter, collide, & disappear in-to what’s heard, but isn’t seen—the slow-

roll sluices that open from insidefor a dollar in change—we meet to play

exquisite corpse, we play & playagain. The first says: the world bends

in a politician’s quaff. The next, like a head-line, reads: now we taste the empire’s horses. . . .


a pixelated silobeeps over a feed.

dear mom, it’s me —I worry, these years, we’ve loved too little.

I place my eyesto your eyes & a stillness...


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pp. 73-75
Launched on MUSE
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