Odd Mineral, not found
in nature, not to be mined,
the name an afterthought.

Roll up light and fire,
cup it in the palms of your hands,
form it like a snowball,
so that you can, for a moment,
play God the same way
a child plays war.

Genesis tells of God making
light and darkness, naming them
for night and day—
we turn the daylight inside out
and blind the night.

Melted and shiny,
a green glass of metal and stone,
and still, it makes the night glow
and makes the counter click.

Donne called for destruction,
called for his metaphor city
to be smashed
that it might be saved,
and asked a triune God
to be the three-faced agent
of that devout catastrophe.

J. Robert read and thought,
and brooding, sought the image
once again, to give faces and
divinity, perhaps, to that
shocking eruption of light.

Some witnesses recount
how, in the first few seconds,
that globe of light seemed
an enormous eye, unblinking,
unshielded, and staring,
just staring back.

About the Poem

Lately, the Trinity atom bomb test in July 1945 is back in people’s attention as a result of the film Oppenheimer. It has received considerable commentary beyond the usual film reviews because of the enduring controversy associated with the Manhattan Project and with the development of nuclear weapons in general. This poem focuses on one by-product of the test, trinitite. *”Trinitite” is the name of a mineral deposit resulting from the first atomic explosion at Alamogordo. It is a combination of sand and other minerals and fragments melted together from the heat of the first plutonium bomb blast. J. Robert Oppenheimer, project director for the atomic bomb research and development, had been reading John Donne’s Holy Sonnets at the time that the test was being planned. The sonnet “Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God” is among these, and its call for destruction in the name of salvation led Oppenheimer to select the name “Trinity” for the first atom bomb test. The poem reflects on this event through the prism of this strange material that reflects the world of destruction in which we have lived since then. The article referenced is one of many current articles reflecting on the same issues.

About the Author

Vincent Casaregola writes and publishes poetry about illness, injury, and healthcare issues, as well as about other subjects, such as gun violence. He is a member of the English faculty at Saint Louis University, where he teaches courses in American literature, film, media, and writing.

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