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The Letters of Robert Oppenheimer: Postscript by Hildegarde Flanner

The Letters of Robert Oppenheimer: Postscript

by Hildegarde Flanner

(originally published in a review of the book The Letters of Robert Oppenheimer in The New Republic, 1980; republished in 100 Great Poems by Women, edited by Carolyn Kizer, The Ecco P, 1995)


To forget him! To forget all of him!

To forget the beautiful skull where genius shuddered!

Suffer him to sink into the white sand

Where his mind pierced the stones and the stones

Marvelled. Consider the stones, they fell in two

And the heavens were speechless. Take alarm.

Did he pray—God, do not make your own God

Of me? The Almighty cleft him

Clairvoyant in a desert of peril

And he rose to meet the world’s oncoming princes

Riders riding on many wheels, and rose

To smash the pure monolith of the Creator,

And the desert fled, matter fled away,

The century split, East fled under West,

And the planet sickened.


Therefore the cities were demolished,

Therefore the people broke into fire.

No need to proclaim who did it. There were

Others. On him the rage of glory falls,

On him the magnificent O.


Forget him.

On the breast of good he came upon evil,

And the two faces faced and hated.

Forget him again. He was never at peace.

There he goes, goes with his two fatal ones

Linked and torn, by furies torn and linked.

Do not touch him as he passes.

He is immortal, he is poison.


Down the longest labyrinth let him go,

Now the doors are all locked,


locks locking locks.



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