Power Station 296

Published January 10, 2014 by B. Rabbit

This poem has been brewing for over a year. It ended up going somewhat differently than I’d expected, but I’m ok with that. I feel like I’ve been completely wrung out, though, now that it’s finally on paper. Total exhaustion.

Again, it’s a rough draft. It’s overly wordy, I think, especially toward the end, but it’s easier to cut than it is to add, so it’ll stand in this form for now. One day, I’ll go through and edit all these things I’ve posted here. That day is not today.

Feel free to listen to the song below as you read. I find that it adds a little something to it if you do. There is a further note in italics at the end as well; it’s not part of the poem.

Power Station 296


It is a hell of a thing
to have a nuclear reactor in your head.

Most people have a dam instead,
always cool
and only running at half- or quarter-capacity
except in times of greater need.
Able to be shut completely down,
its turbines stilled,
its flood gates locked,

Safe, for all intents and purposes.
Only once every hundred years
do dams fail,
and then only in times of great emergency.


I asked my Daddy once
why he thought humans were so obsessed with atomic energy,
the ability to power the world
or burn it to the ground,
depending on which way the dice fell.

“I think it’s because it’s the closest
we’ve ever come to
perpetual motion,” he said.
Wise words from an old truck driver.

Perpetual motion–
so strange.
I want only to be still.


It’s not a Three Mile Island reactor up there,
more or less safe, even when it’s not.

Nope, it’s a leaky old Soviet thing,
made of leftover test material,
pencil lead, tinfoil, and chewing gum,
and unstable even on its best days,
tended by demons with death wishes
and voices that sound eerily familiar.

Walking Chernobyl–
“The peaceful atom,” my ass.


It’s at its worst when
it’s running at low power.
The operators cackle
and poke at the controls.

A reactor’s not a bomb.
Any explosion that comes forth is
chemical, conventional,
not nuclear.
The real danger is in
failure of the containment structure.
The reactor burns;
the poison spews forth,
and Jesus wept.

Quick, quick!
Let the doctor insert the control rods,
Stop the chain reaction.
Shove in the demons’ pencil lead
and hope for the best.


Even when the reactor is
no longer critical,
the byproducts are always decaying:
Decay heat
melts all the fuel to lava,
which eventually hardens to
ceramic on the reactor floor.

But even that pales
in the face of contamination
that vomits forth from the ash of the reactor fire.
Did you know
the half-life of one plutonium isotope
is 24,100 years?

The reactor cools,
but the radioactivity remains,
invisible, infective, inescapable.


And so it goes,
locomotion and cognition powered by
internal uranium.
But the reactor can’t be decommissioned.
It’s needed.
We chloroform the operator demons
and try to keep the shelter together
with plenty of chewing gum and
maybe a prayer
or two,
if we think we need it.

Even when it’s running well, there’s always
the uncomfortable reminder
of the impending Apocalypse inside,
the Third Trumpet I carry,
waiting for its chance to sound the impending doom.
Try not to look at the surrounding wasteland
of the Exclusion Zone.
It is thoroughly depressing.

And so it goes–
pseudo-perpetual motion machine,
ever-envious of those bastards with their dams.


It is a hell of a thing
to have a nuclear reactor in your head.

And so it goes.

**NB: 296 is the DSM code for Bipolar disorder. The numbers after the decimal point refer to the patient’s most recent episode. Feel free to Google the specific codes separating each section if you give enough of a shit to.**


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