The Testimony of J. Robert Oppenheimer
When I attained enlightenment,I threw off the night like an old skin.My eyes filled with lightand I fell to the ground.I lay in Los Alamos,while at the same timeI felltoward Hiroshima,faster and faster,till the earth,till the morningslipped away beneath me.Some say when I hit,there was an explosion,a searing wind that swept the dead before it,but there was only silence,only the soothing baby-blue morningrocking me in its cradle of cumulus cloud,only rest.There beyond the blur of mortality,the roots of the trees of Life and Death,the trees William Blake called Art and Sciencejoined in a kind of Gordian Knoteven Alexander couldn't cut.To me, the ideological highwireis for fools to balance on with their illusions.It is better to leap into the void.Isn't that what we all want anyway?—to eliminate all pretensetill like the oppressed who in the endidentifies with the oppressor,we accept the worst in ourselvesand are set free.In high school, they told meall scientistsstart from the hypothesis "what if"and it's true.What we as a brotherhood lack in imaginationwe make up for with curiosity.I was always motivatedby a ferocious need to know.Can you tell me, Gentlemen,that you don't want it too?—the public collapse,the big fall smooth as honey down a throat?Anything that gets you closerto what you are.O, to be born again and againfrom that dark, metal womb,the sweet, intoxicating smell of decaythe imminent dead give offrising to embrace me.But I could say anything, couldn't I?Like a bed we make and unmake at whim,the truth is always changing,always shaped by the latestcollective urge to destroy.So I sit here,gnawed down by the teethof my nightmares.My soul, a wound that will not heal.All I know is that urge,the pure, sibylline intensity of it.I bartered my humanity for it;so have you.Now, here at parade's endall that matters:our military in readiness,our private citizensin a constant frenzy of patriotismand jingoistic pride,our enemies endless,our need to defend infinite.Good soldiers,We do not regret or mourn,but pick up the guns of our fallen.Like characters in the funny papers,under the heading"Further Adventures of the Lost Tribe",we march past the third eye of History,as it rocks back and forthin its hammock of stars.We strip away the tattered fabricof the universeto the juicy, dark meat,the nothing beyond time.We tear ourselves down atom by atom,till electron and positron,we become our own transcendent annihilation.
Reprinted from The Collected Poems of Ai.
Copyright © 2010 by the Estate of Ai.
Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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