Otto Hahn in Huntingdonshire
Otto Hahn was one of ten German physicists
interned at Farm Hall, Godmanchester in 1945
Six miles a day he walked, around and around
that walled garden, fifty times, and for each
rotation a cipher chalked on the wall.
But even after he had left, the number
of scratches on its pale skin would be tiny
compared with the children’s shadows etched
into that other ground. He had always sworn
if Hitler cracked the secret of the A-bomb,
he would kill himself. And now this officer
approaches with the news that the Nobel Prize
research into the bombardment of uranium
he led has led tonight to Hiroshima.
Nine physicists are amused at such blatant
propaganda, but Hahn stops walking, his face
black, his mind on its one track, flowering
maths, deaths, Metamorphosen, as he gouges
his initials, O H, again and again
in the warm August brickwork of Farm Hall.
The angelic voice in the British uniform
is asking why he’s so upset – after all,
better a few thousand Japs than one single...
Hahn’s O splits open before his eyes,
a cock’s egg that he fantasised has hatched,
Godmanchester cracks, and the Ouse comes slithering.