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The Bulletin regularly features essays and multimedia presentations produced by rising experts on nuclear risk, climate change, and threats from emerging technologies. Want to submit to Voices of Tomorrow? See our guidelines.

Doomsday Slam

11 April 2018
Thomas Gaulkin

Thomas Gaulkin

Thomas Gaulkin joined the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as multimedia editor in March 2018. He spent the previous decade working in communications at the University of Chicago, first...

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Louder Than a Bomb is an annual poetry slam tournament for youth in Chicago, the largest of its kind in the world. More than one hundred high school and middle school teams compete in poetry "bouts" over the course of several weeks.

Many of the individual and group poems address themes connected to growing up in the city—poverty, racism, gun violence. Others are amusing commentary on mundane teenage experiences.

At this year's competition in March, students from one Chicago school were inspired by a subject readers of the Bulletin are familiar with: the Doomsday Clock. Drawing on the Clock's history, the Senn High School team cast new metaphors for concerns like school shootings, police brutality, and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The text of their poem is published below, but there's even more going on in the Senn team's choreographed performance, which got them to the tournament semi-finals. The organizers of Louder Than a Bomb, Young Chicago Authors, sent us a video of the bout. Take a look.

Doomsday at Midnight

By Senn Arts

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Advanced the symbolic doomsday clock a notch closer to the end of humanity
There are two minutes until the apocalypse
Yet we don't know the velocity of this time keeper
How fast or slow our life could come to a close
This clock moves when tragedy strikes
A fluctuating time bomb
That we had no clue existed
Ticking
A man made machine marking the end for everyone
we are moving along with the hands
Ticking until midnight
When the world goes dark
And we will
Tick

In 1947 the clock was made
seven minutes until midnight
the air has never been warmer
light never further away and this close at the same
time
is held in these hands
We smear midnight on our faces like warpaint
we have been staring at the doomsday clock for so long that is beginning to look like us we ticking
turning this terror in to time intervals
Creating a midnight out of our rage
And of our fear
So there is a time when we can be nuclear in our explosion back
your minute hand will only slap us around for so much longe​r
Time Switch

three minutes until midnight
by now the doomsday clock hangs on all of our walls
a universally recognized metaphor
though there is nothing to compare our dusk to
after the bombings of nagasaki and hiroshima
After assassinations of revolutionaries
All the times the law let loose and pushed armageddon against us
Popo popping bullets through all these colored corpses
And dead bodies are heavy

Which leaves the world heavy leaning towards demise
And the clock tilts towards the dead of night
after the poisoning of flint and 18th mass shooting in 2 months
the numbers on your paper crawled onto your walls
spines slipping into your pockets
wrapping around your wrists
and ticked their way toward your termination
Time switch

we always remember
call it the time we got coming to us
do not shoot the messenger
do not throw the alarm across the room when it blares to the end of a dream you set it to

2 minutes until midnight
Full sprint
Doomsday has become the noise that wakes us every morning
Makes us get out of bed
And get ready to be thrown in the destruction
Try and shift the time to something allowing us to wake up walking
But we still know when we try and change a waging war we will be turned into debris
The creators of the clock say
The doomsday clock will only move forward unless someone changes the nature of our world
we wonder
What watchtower do you sit in when you see our end coming?
what separates you from ending along with us
Y'all sit
While we run
prepare
And also try and hold this annihilation back
How supremacist of you
To watch the world exhaust and tell when it expires
Without anything to show you were a part of it
We are not scared to add you in
To bring you and run with us
With the dark approaching on our tails
There is no hiding
Stand your ground
Watch your surroundings
And be ready for when the clock strikes.........midnight