The Cold War in Poland (Ohio) by William Heath

Photo of red sun above skyline
Photo by Designecologist on Unsplash


In school we learn to lie down
in the face of Evil from the skies.
“Take cover,” the first commandment
during air-raid drills as we duck
under our desks, then “All clear.”
No one dares to say that with
or without these precautions,
if a bomb fell, we’ll all be toast.

All day we wait on the edge of seats
for firehouse sirens to sound the alarm.
Part of the Civil Defense system,
we Boy Scouts chop trees,
clear brush for a circular space
deep in the Poland forest, use
the logs for an observation tower
where our trusty binoculars scan
Ohio heavens for Soviet planes.

One family across the street digs
a fallout shelter in their backyard,
complete with a No Trespassing sign,
little realizing they are complicit
to their own burial—leaving fewer
unsightly bodies lying around—
because if the initial blast doesn’t
get you the radiation will.

As luck
would have it, nearby Youngstown
with its thriving steel mills is
a strategic target, not us—our destiny
is to be collateral damage.

William Heath
William Heath has published two poetry books: The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; two chapbooks: Night Moves in Ohio and Leaving Seville; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s Path; a work of history: William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews: Conversations with Robert Stone. Find more of his work on his website,

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