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Sophia Holtz

Atomic Tourists at the Trinity Site, 2014


listen to Sophia read this poem

Wind in the desert the opposite of how

I imagined it: unrelenting as bullets, my mouth filling

with dust still barely radioactive. One hour

of stop-start traffic, then a full parking lot

—like going to the county fair, we both say.

The mood is decidedly festive. Strollers

and pregnant women storm the line

of foul port-a-johns and somebody

may be selling something fried

out the back of a truck. An old man

carries a rusty Geiger counter to find

the illegal trinitite he’ll sneak into his pocket,

and he could be a man with a metal detector at the beach.

I can barely see for the wind blowing sand into my eyes

—the same bland color as sand anywhere else,

only difference being what it could kick up.

A girl falls in the path to the site and her mother

stops her from putting her hands in her mouth.

Besides them and a few women covering

their mouths with scarves, few people seem to mind

what the sand may keep. So many dogs on leashes,

babies in arms. People eat everywhere,

buy postcards, take souvenir portraits

in front of the signs warning of radiation,

by the historic photos of the explosion

clamped to the chainlink, by the monument—

an obelisk of black volcanic rock,

where all the tourists are clustered

snapping photographs, so many photographs

to take home, to keep. A man and his terrier

perch together on the back of the truck

carrying a replica of Fat Man.

By now I am ready to leave, baffled,

disgusted as if we haven’t come here

for the same reasons: to see where it began.

Behind us, a perky couple

in souvenir orange t-shirts warning

of the wearer’s radioactive contents

who climb up excited, cameras flashing,

smiling wide as the boy by the monument

who gave a thumbs-up to the camera

as if nothing that came from here killed.





listen to Sophia read this poem

this light the light unholy

become us, the atom

split & become death

become I

whose breath melts sand.

rotoscope me into black & white

make me soundless

my light once alive as a sun

open the atom & it gives

blindness. leave craters

visible from space

and say my legacy

is only particles in sand—

I leave my own mark

& my mark is fire.

I am become destroyer

my touch a plague


nobody was the same

after seeing my face.

I am become the desert marked

by my growing mouth

swallowing whole

the body built for me

my body raised up on the tower

gadget become trinity

one become three—

nobody was the same

after seeing my teeth.

not sufficient to call the sky— green

or the cloud— red, or the light— purple

there was morning

when there was no morning

snow with no snow

could have eaten the atmosphere

am become destroyer of worlds

alive, alive, they were lucky

but didn’t I devour

them all?



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