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Cuban Missile Crisis
Edward Hujsak


I had to go there, to know
the feeling at the very bottom of
a missile silo, to sight along the muzzle
of this unlikely gun that can flatten a city
continents away and fry its humanity.

We called them wheat field silos,
so pastoral. Who would have guessed
that Kansas and Nebraska
were armed for Armageddon?

One hundred-fifty foot-deep holes
in the ground, lined with concrete,
filled with open steel structures,
work platforms every ten feet.
At the center, the missile;
silent, shining, loaded, deadly.

We take the elevator down down down.
Foreman tells me men died here,
like the fellow, married, two kids, who
stepped off the scaffolding at the top,
swore a blue streak all the way down.
Landed right here, he says,
as we reach the floor, a discoloration
etched in grave gray concrete.

A puddle of water reflects the webwork
of steel above, lit like a Christmas tree.
Compressors chattering, motors humming,
screams of high pressure gas venting.
Such a panic, getting all these silos ready
for an impending shooting war.

Looking up, I can see the rocket through
the girders, hunkered on its platform,
silent, shining, loaded, deadly.
I wonder if it will work as planned.
Will it leave marks on the planet
like the workman who landed here?

From Scattershot, A Collection of Unrelated Poems (Mina-Helwig, 2009).
Used with the author's permission.

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Edward Hujsak is a rocket engineer turned writer, artist, sculptor, and builder of fine furniture and musical instruments. A chemical engineering graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Edward worked on propulsion systems at General Dynamics during development of the Atlas and Centaur rockets. He was propulsion engineer on John Glenn's famous orbital flight and served as chief of preliminary design at General Dynamics Astronautics Division for ten years, accumulating more than a dozen patents in the aerospace field. Edward is the author of numerous published books and has written commentaries for a variety of journals and magazines, including Spaceflight, Space News, Machine Design, San Diego Reader and MAKE magazine. He lives in La Jolla, California.



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