Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
Tell a friend about this page
Issue 107, April – June 2017
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130

Arms Race

My father used to duck-and-cover
under desks, small protection against
a Cuban missile launched for San Antonio.

He still has nightmares. As a kid
I dreamed of a silver football
dropping on a parched field—

the world turned loud and white. 
I’d wake crying. This is how I died,
I told my mom. She taught me

though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death I will fear
no evil. Maybe that’s when I stopped

believing in God. A few years ago,
I read about people living 
in decommissioned missile silos

and I wondered what it would be like.
Last year, I saw one for sale. I couldn’t
afford it. Today, I walked down the street 

looking at the gold dome of the state capitol, 
at a mural painted by a graffiti artist,
at the trees in the park that was once 

a cemetery. This is all so tenuous. 
A musician friend and I exchanged 
muddled words about a world cold 

with the promise of a new war. If movies
are right, fallout can look like snow, which 
today is still melting from shadows.

Silver-spooned mouths never 
seem to know what they start, or 
maybe don’t care. The wind rustled 

what few leaves never left the trees. 
The sun was weak and low. Each day 
seems more numbered.

Liz N. Clift
followed by Q&A
Liz N. Clift holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Iowa State University. Her poetry has appeared in RattleHobartPassages NorthThe National Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

I was speaking with my father about politics, when he shared that he’d been having the nightmares he had as a child during the Cuban missile crisis, and afterward abruptly changed the subject.

Where have you lived—states, countries, etc.? 
Texas, North Carolina, New Zealand (however briefly), Iowa, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado.

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Any toppings?
Chocolate chile sorbet, with no toppings.

With whom, living or dead, would like to share dinner and why? 
I’d love to have dinner with my paternal grandfather, who died when my father was an infant. He was a conscientious objector in World War II, and I would love to talk with him more about his experiences in Africa, working for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration during this time.