Poem: The Speed of Sound | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

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Poem: The Speed of Sound

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In the fifth grade Simon learned
to count the seconds between lightning’s bolt
and thunder’s arrival, five to the mile.

Learned that a second
was one Mississippi long,
and the late night 4th of July fireworks
set off from a barge on Lake Quannapowitt
exploded six Mississippis from his bedroom.

Eight years later he realized the shrinking seconds
between detonation flash and thunder
meant some B-52s rain of quarter ton death
were miles off target in the night.

He dove for his hole.

In less than a Mississippi
the earth bulged in the silence
that is sound beyond comprehension.

The right wall of his foxhole
slammed him against the left
and would not let go,
squeezed him like a pumpkin seed,
kept him locked in a dirt cradle,
the steel dome of his helmet
popped just clear of the ground
the horizontal slit below filled
with eyes that could not close.

In the dawn he saw distant voices
a foot away trying to get his attention
as they scrambled to dig him out.

There was a hand lying on the dirt in front of him,
black ants swarming where the wrist used to be.

He knew the hand wasn’t his.
When someone stepped on it,
he flinched.


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