The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The setting for this poem is the Black Hills of South Dakota, specifically at the places where enormous holes drilled into the earth house missile silos. The sites contain nuclear warheads that are capable of traveling thousands of miles and destroying large cities. The occasion is an encampment of people protesting the existence and potential use of these weapons; the poem describes an early morning scene, as the people awaken and begin the day’s activities.

In the first stanza, the reader sees Buddhist monks, familiar at peace and antinuclear demonstrations, in their orange-colored, togalike robes, outlined against the rising sun. The next two stanzas depict other people beginning to awaken, as bombers fly overhead. While the encampment stirs and comes to life, more people arrive on the dusty roads.

The speaker then turns, in the fourth stanza, from the panoramic view of the whole camp to speak of her family: her husband and two daughters, who are participating in the event with her. She describes her husband bathing their small daughter in a pail of water, then in the next stanza turns to the other daughter combing her hair. The speaker says that she makes coffee, and while doing so tells her daughter that they are camped in the land of the daughter’s ancestors. She wonders about her daughter’s reaction to this knowledge. The sixth stanza turns again to a slightly more distanced view, as the speaker places her family with respect to...

(The entire section is 433 words.)