Devon Balwit | Is the U.S. Ready for a Nuclear Threat?

Is the U.S. Ready for a Nuclear Threat?

My son asks and, like any good mother,
I research. I learn the poetry of defense,

the naming of the deadly arc—boost,
midcourse, terminal. The first two stages

sound almost hopeful; who doesn’t
want a boost? Mid-course, like me,

one feels still able to veer. The latter third
is bad, but surely there are therapies,

intercepts to spare us impact. I learn
of theater defense, staged close

to bellicosity, our allies ticket-holders—
South Korea, Japan, Guam, bearing

our PAC-3s and AEGIS that mostly work
(at least in theory). Whatever bombs

slip through remain for homeland defense.
This conjures up stolid farm couples

with pitchforks and cast-iron pans
guarding what previous generations

worked for. Truth is we’re weakest
at home, preventing only 5/8

of holocaust. The problem is
the threat cloud. We know it well

from life, the way trouble comes
in clusters. Which takes priority?

When the warhead separates, junk
flies. Our soldiers do their best

to identify the threat, but who’s to blame
them if they miss, targeting the chunk

of metal spinning alongside the warhead
or the decoys our clever enemies include.

It’s like trying to hit a bullet with a bullet
intones the mellifluous lady-voice

narrating. It’s like trying to hit a bullet
with a bullet, I tell my son. Impossible,

then, he says, looking almost relieved.
Pretty much, I say and hug him,

We walk the dog, admiring our street,
always perhaps for the last time.

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Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, Fifth Wednesday, The Lake, Emrys Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Inflectionist, Muse A/Journal, and more.