Tickling the Dragon's Tail

by Varnok

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Gathered in the desert to build
An instrument so terrible that it would end the war
Harnessing the atom to their will
The Trinity test created a trinity of cores

Chasing the threshold of prompt criticality
Daghlian tickled the dragon’s tail
Neutron reflector sealed his fate
Brick by tungsten carbide brick

Arms race pushing to the brink of war
Harbinger of death to usher in the end of days
A fifth horseman to join the four
No earthbound steed he rides the sky on the Enola Gay

Neutrons ejected a flash of blue light
Daghlian screamed with the Geiger counter
Removing the bricks, and burning his hand
But the damage was done

Nausea, sour taste, heat wave, panic
Burning, peeling, blistered, tissue
Organs failing, blue lips, coma
Twenty five days passed until they
Pulled the plug

Stripped of its birthright to kill
Its brothers turning cities into graveyards overturned
Jewel voice stopped cruel bombs
Still it found a way to manifest its killing urge

With beryllium tampers and a flathead screwdriver
Slotin, too, tickled the dragon’s tail
A slip of his hand, and the domes reunite
To the onlookers’ dismay

Nine days passed and so did Slotin
Scorching organs, 3D sunburn
Rotting from the inside outward
Instant understanding, he said
Well that does it

Breaking the chain for all time
Melting down the core but still they couldn’t let it die
Offspring to carry the line
Its legacy of terror leaves you nowhere left to hide

Evil incarnate, incarnate again
One war to the next: always present
Even in death, its powers continue
Earning its title: the demon core


released September 25, 2021


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Varnok San Jose, California

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