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Pacific 1945-1995Allen Curnow
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Vol. 17 No. 20 · 19 October 1995
Poem

Pacific 1945-1995

Allen Curnow

563 words

A Pantoum

if th’assassination
could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
with his surcease, success; that but this blow
might be the be-all and the end-all ... here,
but here, upon this bank and shoal of time
we’ld jump the life to come

Macbeth

Quantifiable griefs. The daily kill.
One bullet, with his name on, his surcease.
‘The casualties were few, the damage nil’ –
The scale was blown up, early in the piece.

One bullet, with his name on, his surcease.
Laconic fire, short work the long war mocks.
The scale was blown up, early in the piece –
How many is few? After the aftershocks,

laconic fire – short work! The long war mocks,
dragging out our dead. What calibration says
how many is few, after the aftershocks
of just such magnitude? We heard the news,

dragging out our dead. What calibration says,
right! You can stop crying now, was it really
of just such magnitude? We heard the news
again, the statistical obscene, the cheery

right! You can stop crying now, was it really
the sky that fell, that boiling blue lagoon?
Again, the statistical obscene, the cheery
salutation and bright signature tune.

The sky that fell! That boiling blue lagoon!
Jacques Chirac’s rutting tribe – with gallic
salutation and bright signature tune –
thermonuclear hard-on. Ithyphallic

Jacques! Chirac’s rutting tribe, with gallic
eye for the penetrable, palm-fringed hole –
thermonuclear hard-on, ithyphallic
BANG! full kiloton Five below the atoll.

Eye for the penetrable, palm-fringed hole,
whose trigger-finger, where he sat or knelt down –
BANG! full kiloton five, below the atoll
had it off, bedrock deep orgasmic meltdown –

whose trigger-finger, where he sat or knelt down,
fifty years back, fired one as huge as then
had it off bedrock deep, orgasmic meltdown –
whose but Ferebee’s? – Hiroshima come again! –

fifty years back, fired one as huge as then
fireballed whole cities while ‘People ... copulate, pray ... ’
Whose but Ferebee’s – Hiroshima come again –
bombardier, US Army? Enola Gay

fireballed whole cities while ‘People ... copulate, pray ... ’
Not God fingering Gomorrah but the man,
bombardier, US Army. Enola Gay
shuddering at 30,000 feet began –

not God fingering Gomorrah, but the man,
the colonel her pilot who named her for his Mom –
shuddering at 30,000 feet began –
‘Little Boy’ delivered – her run for home:

the colonel her pilot, who named her for his Mom,
flew her to roost (at last) in the Smithsonian.
‘Little Boy’ delivered, her run for home
lighter for the Beast’s birth, her son’s companion:

flew her to roost (at last) in the Smithsonian:
are tourists’ hearts and hopes, viewing her there,
lighter for the Beast’s birth, her son’s companion?
Jacques’ Marianne’s confinement, is that near?

Are tourists’ hearts and hopes, viewing her there,
pronounced infection-free and safely tested –
Jacques’ Marianne’s confinement, is that near? –
What effluent, what fall-out can be trusted?

pronounced infection-free and safely tested
for carcinogenic isotope unseen fall-out –
what effluent, what fall-out can be trusted?
The Beast once born, who’s answering the call-out?

For carcinogenic isotope, unseen fall-out,
for the screaming city under the crossed hairs,
the Beast once born. Who’s answering the call-out,
no time even to know it’s one of THEIRS –

for the screaming city under the crossed hairs,
‘The casualties were few, the damage nil’ –
No time even to know! It’s one of theirs –
quantifiable griefs. The daily kill.

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