Skip to main content

Cuban Missile Crisis Anxiety, a poem by Steve Brammel

Cuban Missile Crisis Anxiety
by Steve Brammell

Lunch in a brown paper bag, eating in the bleachers,
reading my Lord of the Flies,
the other kids loud, but not enough to hide
the sudden sirens in the distance only I can hear.
I try not to move too fast across the basketball court,
its circle a bullseye, push the bar on the exit door,
the runaway elevator I’m trapped on never reaching bottom.
Outside I sprint to the edge of the playground,
look west where steel mills never stop smoking
and the Nike base, with its white-finned rockets,
guards against those slow bombers of another era.
Just beyond the curve of the earth Chicago is the prize.
I estimate the minutes it will take
for grinning Khrushchev’s missiles
to cross the Early Warning Line,
and how many more until the people,
now alert in the streets with nowhere to go,
all look up, just like me, and watch the warheads,
bright in the autumn sun, fall like Armageddon’s stars.

From Steve Brammel: I worked for many years as a technical and medical writer in Birmingham, Alabama. I was also a frequent contributor to Birmingham Magazine, Alabama Magazine, and other regional publications. My feature each month in Birmingham Magazine examined life in the city through a poet’s eyes. A long fascination with the culinary world led to another career in the restaurant business. Marriage finally brought me to Indianapolis, where I am employed in the wine trade, and still writing. I was a member of Austin Poets Theater in my younger days. I recently completed a manuscript of narrative poems based on my time in the South titled Red Mountain Cut. I am a native Hoosier from Michigan City and a graduate of Wabash College, where I studied with the poet Bert Stern.