Rebecca Foust

the unexploded ordnance bin

our son found the hollow shell
snub-nosed & finned 
& looking like an Acme cartoon bomb 
where we raked for clams
he wanted to keep it 
& we wanted to let him

even the old oysterman wanted
to let him       but we’d read about 
the shell found & kept
for three weeks by an Oregon boy
before the powder
dried       & it went off

we took a few minutes
to snap photos of our son,   
like any ordinary boy then    
putting the shell under his sister’s pillow    
& pretending to launch it 
at the foods that made him gag

at the police station
the desk sergeant crooked 
a thumb toward the dune
with its big metal bin & warning sign 
once a month       he said       we set them off 
& it really lights the place up

it’s too small to be seen       the gene
causing Autism     but I imagine it 
anyway with snub nose & fins & powder 
waiting to dry       first words 
blown off & away like the fingers
of that Oregon boy

whose mom’s grief I used to feel safe from     
who let her son keep his bomb     
in ignorance or faith strong as 
my own caution       that led in the end 
to the same spectacular 
dismemberment of the future

& I wonder       what it would look like
the bin for safe disposal of genes 
that some have said & still say 
can ruin children       & I think maybe        
it’s my own body       or rather 
the body without children

or rather       the body that’s lucky   
or belonging to someone still living
in ignorance & improbable faith
or maybe the bin is the world
when it was young       & to be human
was all promise & radiance 

unwinding dawn mudflats 
into long shining ribbons         
pink as a newborn baby’s gums
& elsewhere       a family 
in a warm illuminated room
is eating steamed clams 

or just any ordinary dinner       as if
it weren’t going to blow all to hell 
any second       all those bright dreams 
lit up like tracer fire 
over the dark dunes       like the Perseids          
only not at all like the Perseids      

There really is an unexploded ordnance bin, or was, in Wellfleet on 
Cape Cod, a place to dispose of unexploded shells and artillery found 
on the beach. This is a big problem on both coasts, from navy target 
practice and munitions dumps in the ocean.