Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Fusion Header

John Canaday

Ruth Marshak at Los Alamos

Tech was a pit that swallowed up
my husband, day and night, and left
his better half, an untrained soldier, fighting
heartache. Finally I gave up
waiting dinner. Often he came home
at three or four a.m. Or not at all.
He said since all we had were Army cots,
he might as well sleep in the lab.
I think the Army knew what it was doing
when it only gave us single beds.
What made it worse was that this sacrifice
was not a sacrifice for him. He loved
his work. It overcame all scruples,
all familial feeling. Few of us knew
the thing our husbands sought,
its magnitude, or why it had aroused
such passion. “There’s a war on, love,” Bob said
each time I asked, until I learned
to shut my mouth, and wait, and spend my energy
on the mechanics of my daily life.
The alternation of the seasons: mud
to dust and back to mud. Teaching
third grade prima donna kids.
Learning to cook at 7,000 feet
with vegetables and fruits long past
their prime. A total absence of
fresh eggs. I chose my battles. This was one
that I could win. I howled for months
until the Army veterinarian agreed
to candle every egg before it hit
the commissary shelves. I’d had enough
of finding grim reminders
of what they wanted to become, and failed.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Winter 2008), p. 109

John Canaday

John Canaday’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Slate, The Paris Review, Poetry Daily, and other journals and anthologies. The Invisible World, a book of poems set in Jordan, won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of a critical study, The Nuclear Muse: Literature, Physics, and the First Atomic Bombs. "Ruth Marshak at Los Alamos" is from Critical Assembly, a collection of poems in the voices of the scientists, spouses, laborers, locals, and military personnel involved in the Manhattan Project.

In addition to working at Abbeville Press and Rutledge Press, Canaday served as an instructor in the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins, a visiting part-time lecturer at Rutgers, editor of The Crumb, tutor; instructor at Harvard Summer School, poll watcher, instructor at Harvard Extension School, educational consultant, and tutor to the Royal Family of Jordan.