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140,000 SECONDS
by Henry Howard

Take a deep breath before Mercury Gate,
And hold it for 140,000 seconds.
Inhale the pain of the wounded earth,
Our Mother, dying of Emphysema, Lung Cancer,
Heart disease,
And radiation sickness,
As the Doomsday Clock ticks off her final hours.

Touch the rich, red desert soil;
It is our mother’s poisoned blood.
Hold the smooth rocks;
They are our mother’s bones
Where the poison struck deep.

Stage a die-in on either side of the fence,
And lie cheek-by-jowl with the radioactive sand.
Feel our Mother’s poisoned cells
Course through your fingers
And penetrate deep inside your own tissues.

Then, if you are able,
Empty your mind for 140,000 seconds,
And meditate on those many lives
Turned to dust
In Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What does it mean to meditate for that long?
Each second is a child’s frightened eyes,
A mother’s soothing voice,
A father’s care-worn face that can still crack a smile
At the end of a long day,
A grandmother’s slender hands of steel
That will never drop you,
Turned to radioactive dust
140,000 times over.

The Doomsday Clock advances
Towards a midnight that will never herald
The start of a bright new day.

Seven minutes to midnight.
America and Iraq are at war.

Five minutes to midnight.
America and Afghanistan are at war.
Three minutes to midnight.
Israel and Hamas are at war.

Two minutes to midnight.
Israel and Hezbollah are at war.

One minute to midnight.
India and Pakistan have the bomb.

Thirty seconds to midnight.
North Korea might have the bomb,
And the U.S. is threatening nuclear retaliation!

Ten seconds to midnight!
Iran may or may not want the bomb,
And the U.S. is threatening nuclear retaliation!

First the clock will stop.
Then our hearts will stop.
Then the world will stop.

The land is stolen from the Native people,
Destined to become “collateral damage.”
The radioactive dust creeps downwind,
Stealing the breath, filling the lungs
Of the young, the elderly, the rich, the poor,
The known and unknown.
Even John Wayne is not spared.

The trucks with their leaking containers of death
Criss-cross the nation,
Looking for a place, any place, to unload their witch’s brew,
As the hour grows late,
And the sun sets behind mushroom clouds.
The hands of the Doomsday Clock meet at the stroke of midnight.

There is still time to turn the clock back,
Even here on this very spot,
Where the burnt earth cries.

If everyone on earth remembered for 140,000 seconds
Each victim of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Who would have the time to make more bombs?
If no one could fire a single bomb
Until everyone was finished,
We could freeze the Doomsday Clock at
24 hours before midnight,
One whole day of never-ending peace!

For Corbin Harney
March 24, 1920 - July 10, 2007

This poem is dedicated to the sacred memory of Corbin Harney,
spiritual leader of the Newe (Western Shoshone), who returned
peacefully to the Great Spirit on July 10th, 2007. He was a gentle
man with a heart of steel, who spent his life tirelessly exposing and
combating the evils of nuclear weapons and the rape of the earth
and the native people caused by decades of above-and below-
ground atomic bomb threats. Though he died a victim of cancer,
like so many "down-winders" before him, his life-force and life's
mission of peace and healing for our one true Mother lives on-
and we must carry his work forward with the same relentless
drive for peace.


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