How to Survive Nuclear War
dreamed early 1980s by Maxine Kumin
After reading Ibuse's Black Rain
Brought low in Kyoto,
too sick with chills and fever
to take the bullet train to Hiroshima,
I am jolted out of this geography,
pursued by Nazis, kidnapped, stranded
when the dam bursts, my life
always in someone else's hands.
Room service brings me tea and aspirin.
This week the Holy Radish
Now shall I repent?
In some respects,
I understand we did this.
Just now, the homage that
Though we eat animals
I wake naked, parched,
"How to Survive Nuclear War" was originally published in Ploughshares, and was collected in Kumin's The Long Approach. A dozen other poems incorporating dreams can be found in Kumin's Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief. She won a Pulitzer for Up Country. All her work is concrete, personal and forceful; she's been flamed by some critics for her sometimes savage opinions. I admire her.
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