Picnic at the Trinity Test Site

It’s not a mild day, the kind full of breezes
cooling the bits of fused greenness
in the sand – an appropriate lack of wind –
but at least there are no ants.
The only shade is the memorial obelisk
but Leona finds a grassy spot for the basket
close enough to read the plaque:
WAS EXPLODED”. This isn’t the first time
I’ve seen it or felt the heat settled in
over this target spot, continually
rolling out towards Oscura Peak,
which absorbs it with a dignity
only an ancient mountain can remember.
Leona is cold, her body poisoned
long before we arrived.

They carved a hole in the land, those fire-makers,
digging deep enough to hit the world’s psyche,
cut nerves, then burn away myelin sheaths
to leave our impulses without insulation.
They gave Leona’s grandfather thyroid cancer.
As a child
she pushed his wheelchair and emptied his catheter.
Leona has children, living as a single mother,
but this was our April visit alone
not quite where the Navajo placed the world’s heart
but Leona’s heart is blocked,
needing cleansing and scouring. This power
sleeps as close as the bits of trinitite buried below.
She can’t hear the roaring
drowning her voice from my ears
or the fire bursting connections
between us, decades away but as close
as our picnic basket,
fried chicken atop the ruins of innocence
washed down with microbeer from Taos. 

As I’d feared while we gathered our food
our reaction won’t start –
just as well. If it did it might
set fire to the atmosphere.

(Originally appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction)