Daily Archives: May 9, 2009

An old one for Craig Arnold

I was saddened to see that the search for Craig Arnold has, for the most part, come to a conclusion.

This, obviously, is a very old poem…but if only for the ending, it seemed fitting to repost it here.


The Radioactive Artist

The radio today
brings me the story
of an artist who builds sculptures
from radioactive waste.

I sit back amazed
and listen to a doomed voice
in full cry
on behalf of his art.

He has
his Nuclear Materials Handler license number
tattooed on the back of his neck.
He has the stuff of his every sculpture in his blood.

He builds his work
from the scraps and tools left behind
in the wake of nuclear weapons manufacturing
and keeps them in a gallery

that will be off limits to critics
for 10,000 years.
Someone has to do this, he says.
Someone has to make these things beautiful.

He says this
and the energy of the earth rises from below his feet
and the energy of the sun closes around him like a sphere
and he stands at the center of our modern storm.

And he will die, sooner rather than later,
having made art that no one will ever see
and considering it a privilege
to have done so.

And his art —
the sculptures
I will never see?

They made me quit my day job.
They make me want to fly low
over volcanoes

to feel that heat
and bring it back with me
on a legal pad.

It makes me weep
to think that I’ve wasted so much time —
to think that we’ve all wasted so much time.


I wrote that poem back in the late 90s.  Somehow, it’s become the piece that people tell me they’ve heard other poets cover most often. And I’ve heard more poets talk to me about this poem than any other I’ve written.  I take my LJ screen name from it.

I’ll forever associate it with Craig now.

RIP, Craig, and thank you.  You’ve earned the rest.