In The Desert Their Rust


26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico the US government built the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a facility designed to store transuranic nuclear waste, a toxic byproduct of the testing and manufacture of nuclear weapons, into the indefinite future. In an attempt to prevent future peoples from breaking open the facility within the next 10,000 years, the WIPP has invested substantial research into the development of a system of visual and written warnings intended to transcend cultural and historical barriers to understanding. Their written warning is sampled here.

a message [We buried what we wrought in steel, we packed

our garbage in salt] Here was repulsive ludicrous sky

a wide purple spin Squat brush heady

under my thumb [sheer constant earth beneath vagrant earth].

This place was a message [part of a system

of messages] I walk here slow in the stones

see them in them the shadow of the rock In winter warm

my back Rattle my toes in the round

whisper of sand Horrible little faces watching us

run smooth lives Raid the rock look down

at the battered strange land where the earth is a word pushing

Move the ground

walks our bodies [If there is a universal

language of forms it would begin at the body some total

body]