a relatively soft radioactive metal with a silvery appearancefirst intentionally synthesized, isolated, and identified in 1944the discovery was closely related to the Manhattan Project
The nation contains intrinsic defects.Something has been sending out messages at the rate of decay.This varies. Because nò bòdy does nòt respond to radiation.It is concentrated on those who witnessed the explosions, and in the soil.Part Two: a white substance heaving westward.O! Pioneers! In truth the word landscape is the mark of an outside gaze.If present on earth, you will have decayed by now.The other side of multitudes is continental death. The past is in the flesh. As the isotope “lives” in the landscape of atomic testing. In the laboratory; in the desert. Which is to say in the nation. Corroding at the rate of century. A continual dragnet: skin, too, has a half-life. O Lord in the morning you hear my voice. Where white could be salt or sky. White, as in the evacuated city on the filmstrip. The B-29 making its pass as the clouds open, called miracle. To ensure the safety of the aircraft. Nevada or that other place beginning with N.
“Americium” from THE CENTURY: by Éireann Lorsung.
Published by Milkweed Editions 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Éireann Lorsung.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Éireann Lorsung is the author of two previous collections of poems: Her book and Music for Landing Planes By, which was named a New and Noteworthy collection by Poets & Writers, and The Century, forthcoming in October 2020. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2016. Since completing an MFA at the University of Minnesota, Lorsung has studied printmaking and drawing at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice and taught high school in rural France. While living in Belgium, she ran a micropress called MIEL Books and a residency space called Dickinson House for writers and artists. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing – Nonfiction at the University of Maine, Farmington.
"One question poet Éireann Lorsung asks in her new collection, The Century, is how citizens contribute to societal structures of violence and control. Slavery in the US and the Holocaust are but two of the most glaring examples. Lorsung's collection comes at a time when studies about the roles average people played in the perpetuation of Nazism and Italian Fascism abound, to say nothing of the 'minor' violences that often define interpersonal relationships across lines of color, gender, creed, and more."
—Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2020"
“Éireann Lorsung’s The Century looks back and locates its necessary ethical work in the ongoing half-life of our irradiated past, seeking nothing less than to own up to, if not reconcile, the complexities and complicities of our moral failures. Those failures, from the bloody history of racism to the violent light of nuclear war, lurk in us as does a radioactive isotope, decaying us from within. Lorsung knows beauty cannot end our responsibility, and it is not beauty these poems seek. They search instead for something vastly more important, the ethics hidden in aesthetics, a realization by which we might find some means to alter our awful ways, to stop ourselves from wielding force against another, to stall the force that uses us for its tool, to not let our own hands become hammers breaking themselves apart. Let us be honest. Let us be sane. This book is our textbook for the education we most need.”