Wednesday, April 23, 2014

National Poetry Month: Week 4

For the penultimate week of National Poetry Month, Cynthia Lowen shares the poem "Oppenheimer Studies the Art of Surrender" from her latest poetry collection, THE CLOUD THAT CONTAINED THE LIGHTNING (2013. pg. 46).

Oppenheimer Studies the Art of Surrender

Aphrodisiac, they say, oysters, the way we crack
their lids of while alive, unzip all at once
the salty sea and pulp, tip nacre to lip, and slurp

them up quick and whole, almost missing that life
as it glides over tongue. I thought muscle might hold
the hinge shut. I suffered a lack

of imagination or, rather, the unlikely hope
some pearl, some tough kernel
might keep the mouth from completing its advantage.

Such bad foresight, nature, failing to anticipate
the fisherman's prying fingers and the shucking knife wedged
between the shell that becomes a comb
and the shall that will be a button.

About the Poem
When an atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, the temperature at the epicenter spiked to over four thousand degrees celsius. In this poem, I wanted to depict the havoc that this weapon unleashed on the human body, which, unbelievably, seemed to have not been fully appreciated or anticipated by the scientists and the military in their decision to use the bomb, even after the Trinity Test turned the New Mexico desert to glass. With this poetry collection as a whole, I wanted to speak to that question of what compelled so many people to create such a terrible weapon. With this poem in particular, I wanted to depict the willful ignorance of how this bomb would affect those on the ground, and this weapon's inability to discern between military targets and innocent civilians.

About the Poet
Cynthia Lowen has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She was selected for inclusion in Best New Poets 2008 and is a recipient of the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize and a winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Contest. She served as a screenwriter and producer of the 2011 documentary Bully.

For more information about National Poetry month, visit For more poetry from the UGA Press, visit the poetry section of our website here.