Nuclear Daffodils


Nuclear Daffodils




Sharon, Massachusetts


In my town,

people, like gophers,

tunneled into their front lawns

building bomb shelters,

the telltale air vents

sticking out of the grass amidst the daffodils.

They hoarded box loads of canned food and dry goods

for the long nuclear winter.

What would be left when they came up for air?

Glow-in-the-dark water?


In my town,

duck and cover drills in junior high school,

that cavernous old building with tall windows

and uneven floors,

echoing with pimply, unruly teenagers,

sweaty hormones,

Elvis Presley’s

blue suede shoes.


And me with my hair teased like cotton candy,

lips glowing burnt orange,

my aching loneliness

a constant companion.


I never understood how hiding under the desk

as it slid on the buckled school floor

and those old creaky windows

exploded from the bomb blast

would protect me

from nuclear



On sweater day,

boys loaned bulky jerseys and pullovers

to their sweethearts

and girls flaunted their trophies

in the halls between classes,

during recess.


My very gay history teacher lent the girls

without boyfriends cardigans perfumed

with his sweet, manly smell.

I felt held, comforted, special,

freed from sweater-less shame.


But there were bigger things

to stress about.


Nuclear armed missiles on Cuba

right off our southern coast.



of the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

shimmered in my anxiety.


In my town.



Alice Rothchild



Alice Rothchild is a retired ob-gyn, author, and filmmaker who is writing a memoir in verse for young adults exploring her childhood in the 1950s and 60s and her development as a feminist physician and activist. Her poetry appeared in a collection of poems and essays titled Extraordinary Rendition: (American) Writers on Palestine. Her other published nonfiction books and contributions to anthologies, blogs, and webzines are listed on her website: She is inspired by the unheard and the forgotten, the awakening of women’s voices and truth telling in the twenty-first century.


  1. A powerful contrast between the innocence of youth and the threat of war. I look forward to reading her memoir.

  2. super title and a real strong piece of writing.

  3. I grew up with the same nuclear anxiety (though I don't write about it as well). It never went away, and has been strengthened of late with the mess the world is in, and the knowledge that crazy people are running things.

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