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Brigadier General Thomas Farrell Bears Witness

Trinity Test Site, July 16, 1945


Great poets dream of clarity
and beauty. Even hell
has its finer points. But when
the announcer shouts out, “Now!”
and from the ethereal sky
comes hideous ruin down
hurled headlong flaming, winged
with red lightning and livid
flames’ fueled entrails rolling
in black billows, words
are beggared tools for things
that must be seen to be
imagined. “Lord, I believe,”
we all pray—Christian,
Jew, and Atheist—helped
from our unbelief by darkness
shattered and made visible,
the whole great world beyond
our shelter seared by light:
golden, purple, blue, and gray,
more brilliant, many times
the midday sun. The impossible
scientific job is done. Men
step outside to watch the fire
wrapped in shadow, smoking, rise.
The air blast knocks them flat.
Effects that one might once
have called magnificent, stupendous.
Now a wordless, strong,
sustained, and awesome cry
hails Doomsday. Puny,
blasphemous things, we dare
tamper with forces heretofore
reserved to the Almighty.
From the cloisters of physicists’
dreams, an atomic monster
rises as we bid. Seconds
slow. I see with God’s
omnipotent eyes. Each peak,
crevasse, and ridge is etched
in flame, and sparrows
drift like sparks across the sky.



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