Richard Brobst was co-founder.of the national literary journal, ALBATROSS, and served as co-editor from 1988--2001. Richard has had three chapbooks PUBLISHED--INHERITED ROLES, 2 001, Anabiosis Press; DANCING WITH ARCHETYPES, 2003, Forestland; SONGS FROM THE LOST OAKS, 2004, Foreastland. Richard has published in quite a number of individual.journals and anthologies, including PEMBROKE MAGAZINE, THE SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW AND THE CALIFORNIA QUARTERLY.
NUCLEAR TEST MANNEQUINS: NEVADA, 1955
“our then shall be some darkness during which
fingers are without hands,and I have no
you:and all trees are(any more than each
leafless ) its silent in forevering snow”
Last night was splendid. Shirley Purple came over and arranged us around the dining room table. She cooked pot roast. Shirley set the table with our spring, sunflower china, and it looked so festive. She served us iced tea and put lemon wedges in the pitcher. She arranged Adam at the head of the table, Baby Mary in her high chair with her doll, Little Donald across from her, and she made herself a setting beside me. Shirley filled all of our plates, and it might have smelled delicious. The Government Men had finished work on the exterior walls, and it was very quiet now, except for the Shirley’s soothing voice. She said a blessing for the food, complemented Adam on how nice the house had shaped up, and updated us on the upcoming wind direction forecast. Little Donald might have said, “I could have finished those walls faster.” Baby Mary held her doll, practicing for motherhood. Adam’s head was facing the window, where, outside, the sun was setting into a glow across the desert. After the table was cleaned and the dishes washed and put away, Shirley moved us into the family room and turned on the television. A man was talking about distances and how this ton equaled so many of that ton. It was over my head. Shirley gave me a ball of yarn and placed a knitting needle in my hand. 32 hours remaining.
It appears that a cat has adopted us. Shirley has been feeding him every day, and we have become his primary home. Shirley arrived early this morning and took us out of our bedrooms and arranged us outside on the deck in aluminum folding chairs. The cat moved around each of us, sniffing our legs. He rubbed up against mine. Baby Mary might have reached from her stroller to pet the cat. Adam and I might have argued over whether to keep the cat inside tonight or let it stay out. I might have argued to bring it in. Adam might not have liked cats. Shirley said that she would be spending the day with us. She is my best friend, and I love her company. It can get lonely in the desert. I might have invited her to sleep over tonight; she said she could stay late but that she could not sleep over. 20 hours remaining.
Shirley Purple moved us inside for lunch. We had tuna sandwiches with cold milk. Shirley said the milk was cold. I might have put some in a saucer for the cat. Shirley did not say much over lunch. She seemed far away in thought, and then she said that tonight we would try an experiment. Tonight she would put each of us in a different room. Adam would be arranged in the basement. I would be at the stove in the kitchen. Little Donald would be in his upstairs bedroom (the Government Men had done extra work to his room), and Baby Mary would be in the hallway. I might have asked why she was doing that. She told me that soon she would take me to a beauty contest in the city. I came from a city. It might have been exciting to think about going back to one. I might have missed the singing of birds. There are no birds in the desert. 15 hours remaining.
After lunch Shirley arranged us in our beds for naps. I might have heard the radio downstairs. The announcer was talking about a town called Dummy Town. I might have thought, what a strange name for a town. Shirley was in the kitchen putting canned goods in the pantry. She was baking an apple pie. 14 hours remaining.
We must have won the lottery. So far, in two days, Federal trucks have brought us a new television, radio, sofa, stove, refrigerator, and beds. And then, on top of that, beautiful new clothes and, to top it off, a dog. Shirley dressed each of us. We must have looked so nice, posed around the new dining room table, arms animated, dog lying down by the door. Fried chicken and corn on the cob and mashed potatoes in gravy all steaming in front of us. After the apple pie was served and taken away, Shirley moved us into the living room for a game of Monopoly. She put the dice in Little Donald’s hand. She thought that he would like that. She turned the television on, and the news anchor was still taking about Dummy Town; she turned it off. We all sat with our faces turned towards Little Donald, almost like we were waiting for him to roll the dice. 10 hours remaining.
At three a.m. Shirley came back to the house. I might have seen her headlights illuminating our new curtains as she pulled up. She is moving us from the living room, taking the dice from Little Donald’s hand and moving him into his room upstairs. How exciting. The game is beginning. Now she is moving Baby Mary in her stroller to the hallway and then carrying Adam down into the basement. I wait my turn, beside the test pattern on the television, and then she is taking me to the kitchen and strapping me with a cord to the stove. She is so gentle that she does not even wrinkle my new cotton dress. The food from dinner was neatly plated on the counter. I might have thought it strange that she had not put it away. Shirley turns the radio on. A man is talking about not driving into the desert. He keeps repeating it. It must be important. Shirley stands with her hands on her hips, surveys the room, appears to be going over something in her head and then leaves the room. I might have heard the front door close, and I might have seen her headlights illuminating the curtains and then leaving the living room dark. The only light left on is the reading lamp in the living room (I can see a sliver of light under the kitchen door and the stove light in the kitchen). The radio is sporadic with a few seconds of talk about measurements and air directions and speeds, and then there are periods of static. But the moon is beautiful. Shirley had turned my face towards the window, and the full moon is in perfect view. I love the moon. I believe that someday people will visit it, and maybe beyond. Maybe Little Donald’s and Baby Mary’s grandchildren will travel up there. I wonder what the earth would look like from the moon. Oh. The radio man is counting down from 100. It must be the coming of the new year. That is exciting. I wonder if Shirley will come out to let us celebrate later. Now I am really excited. New clothing, new furnishings, a new year. I feel.