The Bridport Prize -

 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.