The Cloud that Contained the Lightning

Using the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” as a jumpingoff point, The Cloud That Contained the Lightning explores the kinds of ethical choices we face as individuals and as a society with respect to the innovations and inventions we pursue. How are our fears, obsessions, prejudices, and cultures manifested in the ways we apply new technologies, such as the splitting of the atom? What were the attitudes that resulted in such a destructive invention? What prompted it to be used on a nation suspected to already be defeated? By weaving together the voices of Oppenheimer, his wife and brother, hibakusha (Japanese for “explosion-affected people”), and the mythological figures of Cronos and his children, Lowen creates a dialogue out of a vacuum of communication and imagines the kind of exchanges that might have led to a different outcome than the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And in an exploration of our tendency for selective amnesia, this collection asks a critical question: How quickly will the forgotten lessons of the past allow us to repeat the tragic chapters of our history?

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Selected by

Nikky Finney





After so much time in the desert
I’m always finding myself at water.

The black and bloated little men
Point to the back of my head and warn,

You have no friends on that shore.

I collect them in a net
and probe them, my little cadavers.

Little brains, little hearts.
Mine—and cute, like the jarred fetal pig in biology class.

I made these.
They call me father.