15 April 2022
In the night her whitened toes / cold sole on his calf / between his palms he warms / a slender foot – / twig bones, taut skin.Jean Van Loon’s father was a metallurgist in an Ottawa lab that contributed to the Manhattan Project. The Geiger counter he brought home exposed her mother’s dinner plate as radioactive. Her childhood friend’s father sold cobalt bombs to the Soviet Union. Unbeknownst even to the family, her mother worked for Canada’s Cold War intelligence service.Rooted in memory and history, Nuclear Family carries the reader into the sense of impending nuclear doom and the explosions of material wealth that shaped Van Loon’s childhood. Poems come alive with image, sound, and texture, portraying the innocence of childhood games, the worldwide effects of prolonged nuclear testing, and the long-lasting legacy of her father’s suicide – a fallout of radioactive silences.In Nuclear Family violent events, both global and familial, permeate a girl’s coming of age in a story of cataclysm and, ultimately, recovery.