The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Bomb” is an extended dramatic monologue presented as shaped verse in the form of the mushroom cloud of an atomic blast. The title refers to the object addressed in the poem. The speaker talks to the silent atomic bomb, comparing it with the other works and practices of humankind, declaring the bomb worthy of laughter, admiration, and love.

“Bomb” opens as the speaker begins the address, exclaiming, “You Bomb/ Toy of Universe Grandest of all snatched-sky I cannot hate you.” How, the speaker wonders, can he hate the bomb in particular when no similar hate is felt for the thunderbolt, the caveman’s club, Leonardo Da Vinci’s catapult, or Cochise’s tomahawk? Indeed, the speaker asks, “[H]ath not St. Michael a burning sword St. George a lance David a sling[?]” The bomb is, after all, “no crueller than cancer.”

To all others, death in any other form, whether “car-crash lightning drowning/ Falling off a roof electric-chair heart attack” or “old age old age,” is better than death by the bomb, but to the speaker, the bomb is “Death’s jubilee/ Gem of Death’s supremest blue.” The speaker imagines the effect of the atomic blast on pedestrians and subway riders in Manhattan but quickly lets imagination soar, envisioning “Turtles exploding over Istanbul” and “The top of the Empire State/ arrowed in a broccoli field in Sicily.” With the atomic blast, the ruins of antiquity, the structures of...

(The entire section is 587 words.)