Wernher Von Braun Surrendering to a U.S. Army Private, 1945

by Billy Reynolds

The V-2 rockets were for the biggest part produced under terrible conditions: Principal production took place in an underground slave labor factory collocated and run with the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The underground factory was itself built by slave labor, through digging massive tunnels right into the solid rock of the Harz mountains.
          —from the Wikipedia encyclopedia

It’s an old story, the jocular face,
the upper-left-side of his body cast in white
plaster as a result of a freakish accident
when the liquid fuel exploded and hauled him out
through the glass doors of exchange.

Let’s go ahead and call that Baltic compound
the birth place of the missile.
Let’s go ahead and pronounce the second i
in missile with a high i sound.
I turn the page and see fright skulls

high in the library stacks of research,
across the street at the Von Braun Civic Center
a replica V-2 alight on his bronzed palm.
I speak to his maiden-white cast
enveloped in his leather’s enigmatic black.

I speak as if he forgot that morning
to lose his past, a cold morning, a screen
of woods behind him, gray graying oak,
maple, cedar, or hawthorn,
the sun hid behind passing clouds.

Billy Reynolds lives in Tifton, Georgia, where he is an assistant professor of English at Abraham Baldwin College. His poems and reviews have been published in CutBank, DIAGRAM, New Orleans Review, storySouth, and Third Coast, among others.