LITANY FOR TODAY

In the days following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, I wrote the following poem.

It seems relevant again.

 

LITANY FOR TODAY

A Response to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant Accident

 

From Three Mile Island, from Vermont Yankee, from Seabrook,

from a hundred other places in the country

a cloud of fear has risen, floated, into our lives

and no commission or committee, no panel of experts,

no congressman or senator,

no President, can convince me I am not afraid.

am  afraid,

for my children, my wife, myself, my friends and neighbors,

for the people of the earth, for the plants and animals of the earth,

for the earth itself. And I am afraid because

there is something to be afraid of.

I AM AFRAID.

 

I don’t believe what officials tell me because they tell me everything.

I don’t know how to choose between what is true and what is not,

and I don’t know, because they don’t know.

I AM AFRAID.

 

200,00 people left their homes and fled in fear

and when they returned their fear returned with them.

I AM AFRAID.

 

Here is a picture of The President visiting

the Three Mile Island reactor.

He wears yellow plastic booties to protect himself

from the contaminated soil.

A half mile away, dairy cows eat grass, make milk.

They do not wear yellow, plastic booties.

I AM AFRAID.

 

There are 250,000 gallons of radiation contaminated water,

and no one knows what to do with it.

I AM AFRAID.

 

Inside the reactor building

the radiation level is a thousand times the lethal dosage.

An engineer said,

“Dealing with the radioactive reactor

is going to be a long term problem,

and one, as yet, we don’t know how to handle.”

I AM AFRAID.

 

The paper said, “Despite earlier claims by officials that the chance

of a core melt-down had never been more than slight,

Representative Morris K. Udall, D-Arizona, said,

after a White House briefing, ‘It was a very close call.

We were very close to a real disaster.'”

I AM AFRAID.

 

A melt-down would have contaminated a thousand square miles.

I AM AFRAID.

 

A woman asked an official, “Will I be able to plant my garden?
I AM AFRAID.

 

But I don’t want to be afraid.

I want to stand in a field, grow a garden,

raise my children, be with my wife,

wake in the morning–and not be afraid.

I want to play softball on Wednesday night and Sunday afternoons,

I want to listen to music, visit with friends, drink beer–

and not be afraid.

I want to watch my son slide into second,

teach him how to swing an ax,

use a chain saw, drive a team of horses–and not be afraid.

I want to help my daughter learn to talk,

watch her run across the room, her arms spread out, shouting,

abandoned to her joy–and not be afraid.

I love my life. I don’t want to be afraid.

I AM AFRAID.

 

I want to sleep and wake, eat and drink, make love and work–

and not be afraid.

Fear diminishes us. I don’t want to be afraid.

I AM AFRAID.