Peter Neil Carroll


The air raid siren startles Mr. S, crew cut,
dapper, fresh from Korea; he dives
into the nearest lawn, splits his pants,
then comes to class laughing
at his “nerves”—we don’t think
he’s completely nuts, we’re wearing
metal dog tags to identify our bodies.   

Spies enter the picture:
light bulbs dim, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
fry at Sing Sing. Kids believe that E=mc2
means one thing: mushroom clouds.
We watch the skies for suspicious stars.  

Next descend invaders from Mars:
children are taken from their beds, a red X graven
on their necks; pods disguised as humans
metastasize through unhappy families,
each the same.


I’m too young to die, cries the class comic, 
and a blessed antidote lands, alien & fearless  
as Superman, idiotic as any school rule, 
telling jokes with a shit-eating grin:  

Alfred E. Neuman, he understands, announcing
television—provider of morning H-Bomb tests—
causes cancer of the eyeballs. He says money
isn’t the best thing (but the best thing
won’t go out with you if you have none).
His face like a campaign button, he runs
for president, then starts a draft dodger club.  

Now come the mutants!
Phil and I sit on a bed turning pages,
laugh until our stomachs cramp,
take a break, turn more pages, cramp.
Some day we may live to grow up,
some day far in the future; we laugh
and laugh, knowing nothing
will save us but bad luck

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