O Cool Electric Blue

by | Mar 18, 2016 | 2 comments


2006/07 were particularly hard years for me. By almost every measure, my life was falling apart. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I just didn’t know it then.

I wrote this poem circa 2007. That accounts for the somewhat dystopian mood of the piece, not to mention that it’s about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

When I saw the film Oppenheimer in 2023, also about the bomb, I was motivated to create this seven minute video featuring music by Jaspertine, an artist who creatively integrated my reading of the poem into their work. The photos are my own.

The poem was first published by the literary magazine Raven’s Perch in January 2022. Following the poem you will find music inspired by the poem and created by others.

Also following the poem are some explanations of its lines that are political in nature, so you may choose to avoid that section if those kinds of things bother you.

Either way, I hope you enjoy “O Cool Electric Blue.”


O Cool Electric Blue

O cool electric blue
your star is on the rise
with trouble you came through with promises and lies
shards of metal
bits of bone
strewn with splintered wood
we made this bargain for our souls
and we declared it good
the drone, the whistle, the thunderous sound
it seared their eyes
it shook the ground
one hundred thousand voices lift
while ashes like dirty snowfall drift
clouds of purple glowing gas
a tiny sun is rising fast
see the shadow on the wall
now there’s nothing there at all
our nation breathed a righteous sigh
bring back the million sent to die
the chariot is our security
the stallion is our deity
all God’s power is in our hand
gold from lead like glass from sand
you scared us more than you’ll ever know
fire on high and fire below


Atomic Music Inspired by the Poem

Two talented musicians mixed my reading of the poem into their own creations, both under the Creative Commons License 3.0, which allows me to share them with you here.


The artist Jaspertine used this poem in a song they created called “Losing the Plot,” which you can listen to here. The mix is inspired in large part by early Sigur Rós: a favorite band of mine.

Jaspertine made two separate jam sessions. In the first, he created a crude loop and played out a pair of reverb-soaked atmospheric guitar parts. The second part was improvised using the hold function on his delay pedal. As he chose to heavily degrade my vocals (OK by me), I present the original poem below for your consideration.


The artist The 3AM Association used the poem in a mix called “Time Changes,” which you can listen to here. The piece is aptly named, for the attentive ear will note (pun intended) that the artist mixed two uncommon time signatures: 5/4 and a 7/4. If you are musically inclined, go ahead and count it off and see if you agree.

The Author’s Interpretation of the Poem:

“O Cool Electric Blue” is about the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the US at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. I acknowledge both the horror of Japanese death and destruction and the rational of US President Harry Truman who authorized the bombing in order to stop even greater bloodshed.

I sympathize with the former and empathize with the latter. What I find troubling is the mantle of “Superpower” hubris the US donned in the decades after the bombing, hinted at on the last two lines of the first stanza. This power is bragged about today when certain politicians running for president say things like “We’ll turn the sand to glass” ~ a vile reference to our overwhelming nuclear might.

Killing is nothing to be proud of, even if one must do it to survive. Native Americans and the Samuria, brothers from different mothers, can teach us something there: You honor with humility the lives you take.

“See the shadow on the wall” in the second stanza refers to the horrific image of a man’s shadow created by the intense light of the blast. Like the frozen stone casts we have from the volcanic blast of Pompeii, this iconic, shadowy image was taken at the instant of death. It is a shrine.
“The chariot is our security, the stallion is our deity” in the final stanza refers to a Bible verse, Psalm 20:7, which says:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

I always took this to mean that people of faith would trust God to avoid or diplomatically resolve conflict, rather than belligerently take matters of security into our own hands as we so often do.

While this may seem like a naive idea, I don’t see anyone picking fights with the Amish, who I see as a faithful manifestation of this creed.

Maybe we can also learn a lesson from them too.

The final line, “you scared us more than you’ll ever know, fire on high and fire below,” refers to a legitimate fear the Manhattan project scientists had that the bomb would trigger a chain-reaction in the atmosphere, literally igniting the sky and destroying the earth.

While it obviously didn’t happen, I am always conscious of how the law of unintended consequences is at work shaping history.


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