Back to Issue Thirty-Three

a brief history of nuclear physics


after Franny Choi

J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, died of throat cancer in 1967. Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan) which utilizes the same technology as the atomic bomb to effectively map cancer cells was invented in the 1970s.

oppenheimer wore a suit & tie to the beautiful desert.
reading john donne to pre-crackled air. batter my heart,
three person’d god. see the world, seconds before it changes.

quick kit fox, vulpes macrotis, in the sagebrush. wide ears hear
each rip in the atmosphere. later, feasting on all the dead.
accustomed to birds tumbling from the sky.

tracer & detector, the nurse reminds me that even hours
after the test i’ll be radioactive. to avoid pregnant women.
no thought to my own body. they inject it through a needle.

some cried, some cheered. but they all remarked on his strut.
later, oppenheimer only complains about the second bomb.
the cancer that kills him couldn’t be seen like mine.

if each snake felt it, i can’t be sure. rattlesnake & boa.
the ground tremoring, smoke spreading. now, a landmark
with tours that walk the bone-spread earth.

the machine moves back & forth, cataloguing each
cancer cell until the test shows none. they say
congrats! & give me a keychain to remember it by.


Taylor Garrison is a 2020 Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets fellow. She recently received the Edwin W. Miller award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Her poetry has appeared in Not Very Quiet, Catfish Creek, and elsewhere. Taylor holds a BA in History from Muhlenberg College. She lives in Easton, PA.


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