“We Are All Jacks, Yucca Flats, 1962,” “Embracing Sisyphus” and “Snapping selfies on Lake Champlain”

by David Phillips

“We Are All Jacks, Yucca Flats, 1962,” “Embracing Sisyphus” and “Snapping selfies on Lake Champlain”
By Everett Historical: US Marines in battle exercises during atomic bomb testing. Over 2,000 soldiers participated in BEE Shot on March 22, 1955 at Yucca Flat, Nevada. - Illustration

We Are All Jacks, Yucca Flats, 1962

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds ~ Robert Oppenheimer

The silence of the dry lake bed is broken by the slow

countdown of a megaphone. Flashes of light ignite the

world white to uncomprehending eyes. As the shock

front cools into visibility, an enormous fireball grows

and grows before flaming out like the head of some

leviathan matchstick. A dome of dirt lifts 300-feet high

and stalls. A cloud of twisting smoke climbs above it, surging

upward and outward on the backs of blast waves unleashed in the

pressurized wake. Ear-deafening booms. Goggled men

standing guard in cement bunkers at the seven-mile marker

roll and fall like jacks from a crazy fat kid’s cupped hand.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks perched on Joshua trees stare silently

like towering murals of an imam on mosque walls as an orange

& purple-colored cauliflower head of ash and agglomerates

blooms atop clastic plumes some three miles up – darkening

the meridian sun. Radioactive, recoiled detritus slowly descends on

sunbeams. The dusty face of a new crater falls into place. Cormorants circle,

preying on partially eviscerated squirrels and Kangaroo rats blown astray.

Embracing Sisyphus

At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.~Albert Camus

In the decay of day

my exhausted feet dodge

vagrant gray rock doves

Hungry rats follow

behind me

lugging pizza

down

the subway stairs

I step back from the platform’s edge

as the 8:05 wheezes to a stop

Fourteen hours later

I’m back in Great Neck

where I started

Walking to my car

I speed up

thinking to outrun

my bosscitytrain schedules emails

quotas bond offerings

I slow to let three women pass

their smiles

gripped and frozen

as they ignore

hoots & whistles

flaggers &

paving crew

standing in the shadows of

mounted glow lights

HOME! – greeted

by an Alexa-enabled

voice, asking

would I like the lights on?

Three whiskies later

I stare at the red-eyed stranger

stubble on his chin

who’s watching

me

in the mirror

A nod & he takes a sip too.

Snapping selfies on Lake Champlain

The bull moose swam across the rough waters

of the lake with the afternoon sun on his back,

submerging now and then to snack on curly-leaf

pondweed floating near the sandy bottom.

His powerful legs made his cumbrous form, humped

shoulders and large head, appear as graceful

as the strokes of an Olympic swimmer. He swam

the better part of two hours before reaching

the shallows. Wading ashore, he paused, shaking

water from his matted fur. Onlookers armed

with cameras swarmed the moose like flies

in search of a meal, forcing him to stumble back.

His breathing labored, he retreated to deeper waters.

Silence filled his lungs and water curled around flared

nostrils as the bull moose began the 12-mile swim back

across Lake Champlain.

About the Author

David Phillips

After a career in sales and a stint as an investigative reporter for CBS News, David J. Phillips decided to go back to school. A spinal cancer survivor who lives with crippling neuropathic pain, he had doubts as to whether he could do it – but he did! A recent graduate of the MFA in Writing (Poetry) Program from Vermont College of Fine Arts, David lives in Maine with his wife and two American Eskimo dogs. His poetry embraces the transient nature of life coupled with an aesthetic preoccupation of the physical world that surrounds us.