The Age of Discovery
BY KYLE WANG
Finalist for the 2021 Adroit Prize for Poetry
Trinity, New Mexico. 1945
The cloud rises skyward. As the nights lengthen
the shadows that give the illusion of self-
preservation, I think you’ve misinterpreted
my silence for hunger. Up close,
your silhouette becomes a vulture whose beak enters
the torso of a still-breathing deer, wings
bending not unlike two palms on dry skin,
but it’s pointless, the birds have flown,
their migration preordained by the changing light.
I have an early meeting tomorrow, I say.
Half-asleep, you mumble a line from Oppenheimer.
The city flattens. Dust scatters against the heat.
Still, I remain, insisting I have nowhere else to go.
Southern California. The late 70s
Utopia, deep space — we invent these ideas
because we want to live forever. We split
atoms in the reactor, unimaginable light
shortening the saguaro’s shadow before heat
swallows what’s left of the shape. Inevitably,
the bomb glasses the sand
but nothing ever ends. Even
haunting, you said once, is a language of permanence.
Sometimes, I still walk through the desert
looking for broken shards. I find only fossils;
the wind chafes my lips. Our theory’s failed again.