Grief Is A Paradox - Poem by gershon hepner
GRIEF IS A PARADOX
Grief is a paradox, the presence of an ab-
sence, mushroom cloud where there once was Elugelab.
This couplet was inspired by a poem by Robert Pinsky, "Grief, " in the June 7th 2012 edition of NYR, which was printed after an amazing article by Jim Holt, reviewing Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson:
The computer, one might well conclude, was conceived in sin. Its birth helped ratchet up, by several orders of magnitude, the destructive force available to the superpowers during the cold war. And the man most responsible for the creation of that first computer, John von Neumann, was himself among the most ardent of the cold warriors, an advocate of a preemptive military attack on the Soviet Union, and one of the models for the film character Dr. Strangelove. As George Dyson writes in his superb new history, Turing's Cathedral, "The digital universe and the hydrogen bomb were brought into existence at the same time." Von Neumann had seemingly made a deal with the devil: "The scientists would get the computers, and the military would get the bombs."…
And what was MANIAC used for, once it was up and running? Its first job was to do the calculations necessary to engineer the prototype of the hydrogen bomb. Those calculations were successful. On the morning of November 1,1952, the bomb they made possible, nicknamed "Ivy Mike, " was secretly detonated over a South Pacific island called Elugelab. The blast vaporized the entire island, along with 80 million tons of coral. One of the air force planes sent in to sample the mushroom cloud—reported to be "like the inside of a red-hot furnace"—spun out of control and crashed into the sea; the pilot's body was never found. A marine biologist on the scene recalled that a week after the H-bomb test he was still finding terns with their feathers blackened and scorched, and fish whose "skin was missing from a side as if they had been dropped in a hot pan."
GRIEF, by Robert Pinsky
I don't think anybody ever is
Really divorced, said Lenny. Also,
I don't think anybody ever is
Really married, he said. Because
English was really his second language
And because of Yiddish and its displaced
Place in the world, he never really
Believed in his own prose. He wrote
Sentences as a great boxer moves.
Near the end he said "I'm in Hell"—
Something he might have said about
Hunting for a parking space in Berkeley.
Mike too was himself. His last month,
Too weak to paint or make prints,
He sat and made drawings of flowers:
Ink attentive to rhythms of beach rose,
Wisteria, lily—forms like acrobats
Or Cossack dancers. Mike had a vision
Of his body dead on his studio floor
Seen from high above—he didn't feel sad
Or afraid at seeing it, he said, just
Sorry for the person who would find it.
You can't say nobody ever really dies:
Of course they do: Lenny died. Mike died.
But the odd thing is, the person still makes
A shape distinct and present in the mind
As an object in the hand. The presence
In the absence: it isn't comfort—it's grief.
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