Oak Ridge

“So when Roosevelt reiterated, ‘Can you hide $2 billion for a secret project that we hope will end the war?’ Senator McKellar deftly replied, ‘Well, Mr. President, of course I can. And where in Tennessee do you want me to hide it?’”

—Denise Kiernan, The Girls of Atomic City

It was good work, good
money. No one knew anything
for sure. Do what you’re told
and don’t ask why. Shut up
and color. Stick to your knitting.
A new kind of patriotism. You wanted
your R high. That was better than Q.
Something was vaporized. There
was a Z. The E box caught
everything. Open the shutters. Maximize
the beam. They made plutonium,
called it Product, Tubealloy, shipped it
across the country in briefcases
handcuffed to men who’d get
a massage, a bath, a steak
when they arrived. Pipes came in
and pipes went out. They all saw
glints and flashes. Soldiers
were told to lie down
on their stomachs, faces
away from the blast.