November 2001

Charles O'Hay


Charles O'Hay is the recipient of a 1995 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in poetry. His work has appeared in over 100 publications, including South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, and Rattle.
How Dad Won The Cold War  

             for Charles F. O'Hay

The Bomb was smaller thenó
could be tossed like a red rubber ball
and break no more than a vase.

But when Kennedy and Khrushchev
tugged at it like a doll, it nearly ripped in two.
"Still," you said, "Cuba's a long way off

And even if they hit Brooklyn
the blast can be outrun if one only knows
where to go." So you bought maps

Of unlikely places: Madagascar
Tierra del Fuego, The Falklands. Mom's face
fell as you pointed to Tasmania,

A thumb-smudge in the South Pacific,
but she packed the T-Bird as you called
startled travel agents for tickets.

"There's just time," you said,
"to say goodbye to the family." Your parents
were a little surprised to see usó

They'd barely heard of Cuba,
let alone Tasmania, and they kept rolling
the word in their mouths like ice.

"Tazz- mania," your mother said,
"sounds like something they put you away for...
You want some more tea?"

That night you didn't sleep,
kept your ear to the radio as the fleets moved
closer, your Chesterfield glowing.

By morning, the ticking had stopped,
the Bomb slipping back in some general's pocket,
the Russian ships turning for home.

When you drove us back to Brooklyn,
you talked about Thanksgiving, only a month away,
and of Christmas to follow,

And though you grinned like a hero,
you knew the truth: that the Bomb had grown
a little larger and heavier for all of us.



Charles O'Hay: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 18The Cortland Review