Poet writes a letter to her ‘high school obsession,’ the Atom Bomb

Watch Catherine Pierce read her poem “Dear Atom Bomb” at the 2015 AWP Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis. The text of the poem is below.

Dear Atom Bomb,

I confess—you were my high school obsession.
You bloomed inside my chest until I howled. You shook me
with your booming zillion wattage. You were bigger
than rock and roll. I lost days to you, the way you expanded

to become more than even yourself. In Science class
movies, you puffed men like microwaved marshmallows,
raked blood from their insides, and always I could feel
your heat like a massive cloak around my shoulders.

You embarrassed me. You were too depraved for dignity,
not caring whose eyes you melted, whose innards oozed;
you balled up control in your God-huge palms
and tossed it into the stratosphere. Oh, Atom Bomb,

I miss you. These days my mind is no incandescent
blur but a narrow infrared beam spotlighting
bounded fears: cancer in a single throat; a shock
of blood on the clean sheets; a careless turn from

the grocery store lot into the pickup with the pit bull
in the bed. Oh, Atom Bomb, come back. Take me away
from the twitch in my leg, the cracking lead paint,
the lurking salmonella. Sweep me up in your blinding

white certainty. Make me sure once again that
I’ll live till the world’s brilliant end.

Catherine Pierce is the author of three books of poetry, including the forthcoming “The Tornado Is the World,” Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Prize winner “The Girls of Peculiar” and the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize winner “Famous Last Words.” Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including The Best American Poetry Anthology, Best New Poets, Slate, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Pleiades, Crazyhorse and the Indiana Review. Pierce earned a Masters in Fine Arts from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. She lives in Mississippi, where she is an associate professor and co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

This video was filmed at the AWP Conference & Bookfair. Special thanks to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.