The Theology of Los Alamos, 16 July 1945


[An older poem. Four days ago it was the 69th anniversary of the explosion of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos which subdivided human history in a new way: before and after nuclear energy, before and after potential self-annihilation and the end of the human experiment in the universe. Our memento mori is now the Bomb. Its suicidal destructiveness, vanished from the hectic daily news, has not gone away, is always there in the anxious depths of our unconsciousness. This self-created ‘Other’, like climate chaos, unfortunately has yet to fuse humanity into one human family consciously living within the limits of One Planet…]

The Theology of Los Alamos, 16 July 1945

Batter me now three-personed God
– John Donne

1. Theology 1

To prove a finer point maybe
in metaphysics, the first test
was referred to as Trinity.

Perhaps to hammer home
the ineffable mysteries of Thor,
we really are God playing God?

Other hypnotic hypotheses:
(a) there were three bombs
(b) Trinity was a nearby turquoise mine

under some old curse or other
and thus abandoned
by the local tribe.

2. Linguistics

The word bomb was always avoided.
The word gadget was used instead.

The main topic of conversation
among the scientists

was whether the gadget
would go off or not.

If it did, it would be: a boy
If a dud it would be: a girl.

Lovely Little Boy then dropped
from mother Enola Gay

to say hello
to Hiroshima.

3. Oscuro

Before the blast
the gadget was transported

from Site S to a desert area
known as Jornada del Muerto

(Death Tract) near the village
of Oscuro (Dark).

4. Last Question

Two days before the test
heavy thunderstorms and hail

hit the site. Before setting off
to the Death Tract, Hans Bethe

held a speech in the movie hall
that ended: ‘Human

calculation indicates
the experiment

must succeed. But
will Nature act

in conformity with
our calculations?’

5. Anapocalyptic

At the site they put on sunglasses
and lay down on their stomachs
with their heads turned away.

While they waited hardly
a word, their thoughts
not apocalyptic.

Most were trying to work out
how long it would be
before they could shift

their uncomfortable
positions and get
a view of the spectacle.

Fermi held scraps of paper
to gauge
the air pressure from the explosion.

Frisch focussed on memorizing everything
precisely without allowing excitement
or preconceptions to interfere.

Groves was wondering whether
he’d taken all the right measures
to evacuate in case of disaster.

Oppenheimer oscillated
between fears
of failure and success.

6. Theology 2

Like us all in Plato’s cave
no one saw the first flash

of the atomic fire itself
but only its reflection

in the stunned sky
and hills. Some then saw

a bright ball of flame
growing steadily larger.

A senior officer shouted:
‘Good God, I believe

the long-haired boys
have lost control!’

Carson Mark feared
the ball of fire

would never stop growing
till it destroyed the universe.

Oppenheimer’s mind
coughed up Krishna:

I am become Death,
the shatterer of worlds.

General Groves consoled
a tearful scientist

whose measuring
instruments had been smashed.

Fermi for the first
time in his life

let someone else
drive him home in his car.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on July 20, 2014.

One Response to “The Theology of Los Alamos, 16 July 1945”

  1. i’m pretty convinced that egos and narcissism have won out for the most part….the odds are not in the planets favor…people just don’t want to share or work together…too vain or too desperate…

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