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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/928462-We-have-talked-our-extinction-to-death-Robert-Lowell
Rated: E · Book · Writing · #2044345
Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
#928462 added February 6, 2018 at 2:29am
Restrictions: None
"We have talked our extinction to death." (Robert Lowell)
Last night on MSNBC, Brian Williams reported the Russians have a new under-water delivery system to carry a nuclear attack that could make the entire west coast of the US uninhabitable. He said it feels like a new arms race and commented on the last arms race that older Americans remember. Earlier in the day, I read Rober Lowell's poem "Fall 1961." I share it here:
1917-1977

"Fall 1961"

Back and forth, back and forth
goes the tock, tock, tock
of the orange, bland, ambassadorial
face of the moon
on the grandfather clock.
All autumn, the chafe and jar
of nuclear war;
we have talked our extinction to death.
I swim like a minnow
behind my studio window.

Our end drifts nearer,
the moon lifts,
radiant with terror.
The state
is a diver under a glass bell.

A father's no shield
for his child.
We are like a lot of wild
spiders crying together,
but without tears.

Nature holds up a mirror.
One swallow makes a summer.
It's easy to tick
off the minutes,
but the clockhands stick.

Back and forth!
Back and forth, back and forth –
my one point of rest
is the orange and black
oriole's swinging nest!

© Robert Lowell

I like how he begins with a man-made timekeeper and ends with the oriol's nest as a pendulum counting out time. I love his images. The mood of the poem seems so correct for the subject. I remember drills during which we got under our desks at school. This might have been useful in a conventional attack. We all knew we were a prime target and assumed we wouldn't survive. I had nightmares of me running alone with fire all around me screaming for my father. In that dream, I believed my father could shield me, but I couldn't find him. Lowell is right; "a father's no shield for his child."

I am also reading Learning to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton. This is about global warming and postulates that mankind will not find a way to save ourselves from ourselves. Early in the book, the author describes his experience in combat and how he managed his fear by seeing himself as already dead and with nothing to lose. I expect this will be his suggestion. In any case, we face the dual threats of global warming and a new arms race. At this time, I feel rather hopeless some days. I found the Lowell poem refreshing. I hope you do, too.


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© Copyright 2018 Louise Wiggins is Elizabeth (UN: howellbard3 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Louise Wiggins is Elizabeth has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/928462-We-have-talked-our-extinction-to-death-Robert-Lowell