by Mike Ross

Early dilemma for Los Alamos scientists: will an atomic
chain reaction create infernos of the world’s ocean waters?

Oppenheimer masters Sanskrit, spoken along the Ganges,
where men in saffron robes scrub sin and death into holy water.

At a hydro-electric plant in occupied Norway, German scientists distill
deuterium oxide, an isotope for Hitler’s atomic bomb (heavy water).

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna and Arjuna debate interactions
of gods and men between warring armies, as if parting Red Sea waters.

Truman mentions the bomb to Stalin, who feigns indifference, but a spy
funnels formulas to the Kremlin as a conduit gushes floodwaters.

Los Alamos means Cottonwoods that crowd the Rio Grande flood plain,
an anomaly that delivers relief to a desert parched for water.

By 1945, Fat Man and Little Boy scourge everything;
Japan’s Ota and Urakami set off Geiger counters, atypical of river water.

Mike Ross writes and teaches poetry. His book of poems, Small Engine Repair, was published in 2015.

About Isotope—This is one of a series of poems about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father" of the atomic bomb. It is a ghazal, an ancient Persian form consisting of couplets that are indirectly related and united by a repeated word or phrase.