General Sweeney Dies At 84

The idea was not to seek him
but simply to glance up from the eggplant
at the Fruit Center and find him with a list.

My daughter was learning to drive.
Pull over, that house there, that's where
the man lives who dropped the bomb on Nagasaki.

An open cockpit biplane, two bucks a ride,
seventeen years old, first time up, 1936,
above the naval air station in my home town.

He caddied at Wollaston Golf Club for the rising
Irish. Next time he saw Cardinal Spellman
was in the Marianas, blessing the belly of Bock's Car.

To observe him among mushrooms, in the zone
of his radiating heat and squelching exhaust.
Exceptional will and lubricants, the fissive core

with taunts in chalk for the Emperor
and a pin-up of Rita Hayworth. Through the bombsight
Kokura disappeared under clouds, so they droned on

to the armament plants at Nagasaki.
Your Eminence, rather than lay up, go long
with your 5-iron, go with the wind.

Revenge lumbered to its destination
with just enough fuel to return
and a Times reporter on board.

Sweeney's testimony: It was like emerging
into the street after a matinee, the primal sun.
The goal was to drop a boulder

into the mouth of the catacombs,
trapping death with gamma rays and neutrons,
triggering a new world with a billow of awe,

all things plummeting with a lurching release:
the Cardinal's ball and bag of clubs,
tons of trenchant leaflets, the items on my shopping list,

and General Sweeney in uniform,
descending to his grave, just a mile
from our favorite market.

My daughter took note of the neat brick house,
then rehearsed her three-point turn,
the tested tactic for turning back.

by Ron Slate

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