Tuesday, October 23, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 23: Atomic Non-Blonde

Initially I was wondering what on earth I might be able to write with a prompt like 'See Me' - which is deceptively straightforward, but can be taken in a variety of different compass directions all faaaaaar far from magnetic north.

And then I watched this poignant, horrifying clip of Australian atomic veterans, men who had seen and experienced nuclear explosion close up during nuclear testing. One phrase just stopped me in my tracks, dug in, and wouldn't let go: "If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones." The atomic flash had apparently illuminated all the bones in their hands as they covered their eyes with their fingers. They all agreed that none of them wished to experience that ever again, as much as it was something utterly extraordinary.

I couldn't help thinking how terrifyingly vulnerable that must have felt - to have your skeleton laid bare by just a flash of light and a wall of heat passing through your body.

And thus, my macabre take on the prompt. (Yes, pun on the title - I am decidedly non-blonde even if I've experimented with it in more unfortunate moments, and this is very much literally atomic.)

For the Greyhound

“If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones.” – David Hemsley, atomic veteran

You’ve seen all my bones. Atomic flash, a revelation of skeleton and skin, the light places, the dark places, you’ve seen them all. The zombie kraken. The eldritch horrors buried in the Mariana Trench of my subconscious, the green-eyed envy-eels and depression-wyrms that slither out slit-eyed and soul-hungry. I’ve seen it all, there is no more to see, Bjork sings, but she’s wrong. Something always cracks the ‘no more’ barrier, oozing through hairline fissures. There. You see me, dissected on the table, a most un-model alien specimen, flaps of skin peeled back to reveal soft tissue and bone, neatly labelled - ‘tibia’, ‘patella’, ‘brain’, ‘undecipherable thought pattern’, ‘strange matter’. Go deeper. Under the bone is where the skeleton of my thoughts lie. Under the neural networks and firing synapses are the nameless things, the godknowswhats that define one moment more than the next, one specific place over another , this man from that man, which to run from, which to stay with, which wrong word spills out two seconds from ‘I love you’. Atomic flash. Skeleton and skin, light, dark. You’ve seen them all.

A stone. A star. Flash.
Your breath, earth-warm, beside me.
I give you my bones.


Esther Jones said...

"Go deeper." At risk of sounding derivative, this is deep. There's so much here.

Shuku said...

Thank you so much Esther! I'm fascinated by anatomy and forensic anthropology, and they tend to muscle their way into my writing, at the risk of being utterly incomprehensible. I'm glad you liked it!

paeansunplugged said...

This is fantastically powerful.

Shuku said...

Thank you so much for reading it <3 I always worry about if the piece will actually say something worth saying to someone, and I am so happy it CAN be read without seeming like something incomprehensible.

ms_lili said...

"Under the bone is where the skeleton of my thoughts lie." I don't like to say I'm glad you watched that video, but I am as it inspired this poem. The last line, in context of the rest, knocks me over.

Sunita said...

This is indeed deep. Poignant, painful and there is that collateral damage to the human soul. Visceral. Powerful write, Shuku :)

Richa said...

Wow, so deep and powerful!❤

Shuku said...

Jade: The video was really something, it was thought-provoking and terrifying in so many ways. Short clip, only about 4 minutes long, but it was like a punch to the gut. Thank you so much! <3 I'm always a little antsy putting up poems like this, I sometimes think they're too much of a self-indulgence.

Sunita: Thank you so much for the kind words Sunita! There's always collateral damage in any relationship, isn't there? But so much depends on how it gets handled, or whether it's left to foster and fade.

Richa: I'm so glad you liked it, thank you so much! I don't normally write haibuns, this is only my second since April, so it's good to know the form works for certain types of writing.

Rod E. Kok said...

Shuku, this was really awesome! It is macabre without being dark. I hope that makes sense. Great writing!

Ornery Owl said...

This is an incredible write!
I'm a cold war kid, born in 1965. I never had to do the silly "duck and cover" drills that they did back when my mother was in school. By the time my generation came along, we knew that it was "bend over and kiss your ass goodbye."
Living in that era affected the way I write and the way I think. As a child who wanted to live, I feared that my life would be cut short by an atomic bomb. As a teenager, my motto was "live it up now" because I didn't know if I had a future.
I still have "nuke dreams," but they tend to have an element of unreality and the theme is "what did I do to fuck things up now?" In one of these dreams, my brother and I were at the golf course with my father (RIP). I decided to get a soda even though my father frowned on drinking soda. As I pushed the button, nuclear clouds appeared on the horizon. My brother put his hands on his hips and demanded: "what did you do now?"
The nukes didn't kill anyone, but they did do a lot of damage to the city. People were without adequate shelter, and it was all my fault. I said, "all I wanted was to have a soda!" Then I woke up.
I was in my early 20s when I had this dream. I've never forgotten it.

Shuku said...

Rod: Yes it made sense, and thank you SO much - it really encouraged me no end to hear that. I'm so glad you liked it; I kept being afraid it would be hard to understand and muddled up.

Cara: Wow. That's...wow. I knew about the fallout shelters and all, but I didn't know about the drills - it's not something we had here (What we did have was Darurat - the Emergency, which you can read about here: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malayan_Emergency>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malayan_Emergency</a> ) It is amazing, heartbreaking, and incredible to trace how much that one single development - nuclear weapons and testing - has affected so many lives, even those who came generations later. Thank you so much for sharing; it's certainly given me lots to think about!