Peter Oppenheimer Hearing the Who Play “Pinball Wizard” on a Durango Juke Box Remembers Toddling in Los Alamos

That world was the ivory v, flush with the basketball
floor of the pinball machine—I could open a door.

The landscape was painted in that Bad Day at Black Rock
matinee poster style with counters ringing tens

of thousands of points with the same springing bell
sound the Esso gas pumps made all the way to L.A.

My father would have found a percentage in the way
half of the quark’s globe spins backward in time, back

just that touch into the twinkling past while the other half
spins with the rest of us into the future’s dark. Durango’s

not much given to the Who—got much more George
Jones and Dolly and Johnny Cash. But this one particle

made it through the mountains. I could push the lab’s door
and toddle in where the yellow pollen of the future pulsed

dull as gold dust on a poker table. The technician would bellow
and someone would come sweep me like a spill, flipper me out

the door again. Oh yes, they wanted to keep me far, far from the score.

John M. Anderson teaches at Boston College. Featured in both Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, he has new poems in Poetry Northwest, Spillway, Tuesday: An Art Project, and Crazyhorse –plus a canyonland chapbook, Dictionary Quilt (Pudding House, 2007). His manuscript Alamos: A Chain Reaction is a ghost story in verse about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.