Light is our presence sunned on darkness
at the instant when is realized
the scientist become prince of war
preparing on his hawk-hung mountain
for the slaughter. See how Krishna comes
speeding out before the Pandava,
drives the white chariot and rising
says, “attend me Arjuna, Princeling,
know this your enemy, your duty.”

Oppenheimer dons the crown, draws us
to light candles in the darkness, splits
the elements of universe, bleeds
knowledge out along our tongues, fingers.
Our eyes, divining then how atoms
pierce themselves upon Lord Krishna's glance,
enlist us to the moral question,
to know if seductive duty shields
us from the dark in its elements.

There is a rightness when there is need,
yet none of us would deny a will
to sire light out of darkness, inspect
each vague corridor of ignorance
to use its residues unforeseen.
Imagination takes wing, renders
what we know is our duty, passion
to do veils us at the moral edge,
victory teeters toward the ruthless.

There are pathways to be elected,
points to turn across ridges, rivers,
easy points where the choosing is made
certain with light. Darkness prevails there,
down in the Jornada del Mueno,
where we first know duty transfigured.
Old foes defeated set new choices.
Fire stirs in the ash of inertia
where conscience withers. We do not turn.

No bird sang to invite the harsh dawn
hatched upon our starred immensity.
Without a sound, the sun was shining,
and on silent wings, it rose, burning.
Now we do know thy dark lightness bred
of desert womb by bleakest knowledge.
Here we have denied the single sun.
The heat on my face is the sin we share:
that if it can be done, then we will.

Now the silence waits for thunderclap.
We have sent essence of that fire in
and found there Cain's mark burnt on Krishna's
terrible duty. Know goodly men
that by these scarred atoms, the fire path
is chosen. Darkness, light do not change.
Death does not forgive. Look on this fire
and you will see the darkness in it
everywhere, darkness and the thunder.

All things we make are misused for death.
Each of us stands numbed by this power
sired of duty, for we know sickness
is grown from such seed as we have sown,
an infirmity of the spirit
that clouds conscience, shrouding the path
in a darkness shorn of light. We have
pulled this form from the side of atoms,
and we are condemned to nurse its child.

Look at the cenotaph long as tongues
of duty's dim children. We know this:
we have spat upon the earth a curse
born of the best that is within us;
we are become the wings of Siva,
shatterer of worlds, grim feathers plucked
from long walks in pleasant hills. So soon
is darkness cast upon our light path.
When we do not choose, there is no choice.

Duty pulls us. More we will not know.
Our way is circumscribed in anger
and certain it is that there is worse
when we last reach into the pit of us.
Libera me in diem irae
et in die illa quando sunt
coeli fregendi et terra nostra
We have opened the heart out into
darkness, shield us now that there is light.

© 1997 Jess Morton