The Dark Hole
Douglas the third is three.
He is digging a hole in the sand on the beach at Nags Head.
Nearby is Kitty Hawk, where our first plane
flew for a hundred yards.
Another name is in the air: Hiroshima,
a bomb dropping. It sounds like the ocean wind;
but the voices are strange, triumphant and horrified.
He has no words yet for this mixture of tones.
"Does this mean the war has ended?" he asks.
"Yes." "Who won?"
"We did," his mother tells him. "We have the bomb."
Days later his mother is ironing.
She asks him, "Will you go up to the dark hole
and bring me three coat hangers?
They're in a box at the door."
The dark hole is the name for the windowless attic.
Douglass asks, "Do I have to go?"
"No, but you always like to be helpful."
"I'll go," he says.
Twenty years later they both recall the incident.
"When you said we had the atomic bomb," he tells her,
"I thought you meant our family did.
I thought it must be in the dark hole."
He had thought at first it must all be an accident,
like when you dropped something you didn't mean to:
you were ashamed, and sometimes punished.
Fifty years later we still have no words
for the confusion of jubilation and horror,
for the agony of bodies with flesh hanging in tatters
from their shoulder bones;
triumphant, the secret fruit of Oak Ridge
had ripened, falling from a single plane
on an unsuspecting town.
Pity for the three-year-old climbing the stairs
with silent courage
into the terror of catastrophe,
into the dark hole where, yes,
our entire nation owned and kept the fire-wind
of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the atolls and islands,
the pasturelands of Utah, other remote and quiet
playing fields of a nonexistent war.
Virginia Hamilton Adair refused to publish her first collection until she was 83. This is a lovely, timely poem titled "The Dark Hole." It comes from a book titled, Ants on the Melon, which was published by Random House in 1996.
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