The Pegasus Awards

Poisoned Apples

Don Neill

Pegasus Award

Award Year Category

Best Science Song

Pegasus Nominations

Year Category Sample
2022 Best Filk Song

"I had just started working in the astronomy department at Columbia University in NYC, having been rescued from a short stint on Wall Street, when I noticed that the building I was working in, Pupin Hall, had a Historic Building plaque at the entrance. What caught my eye was the fact that the plaque said not one word about why the building was historic. In the meantime, I had begun reading Richard Rhodes' Pulitzer-prize winning novel called "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" which is a fascinating and very well-written description of all the personalities, trials, and triumphs of the very secret project to build the atomic bomb. Most of the action took place at Los Alamos Labs, and the novel culminated in Hiroshima where the deadly force of the weapon was revealed in all its horror to the world.

Fast-forward a few months and Richard Rhodes himself came to Columbia University to promote his new book, "The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" about the next phase of escalation in the nuclear arms race. His talk took place in the physics department auditorium in Pupin Hall. I knew it would be a good talk and settled in to hear all about the physicists who made that technology possible and those who refused to participate due to the horrible nature of the weapon. He opened his talk by stating how honored he was to be giving his talk where the Manhattan Project began. He explained that Enrico Fermi arrived from Europe at Columbia University and made his first attempts at a sustained nuclear chain reaction in the basement of this very building!

I had my answer to the Historic Building plaque mystery and was stunned to realize I had been working for months in the building that was the origin of the Manhattan Project. I went home and wrote this song in about an hour. I named this song after the title of Richard Rhodes' talk. His claim was that the Hydrogen Bomb was so powerful that it was useless as a strategic weapon, because there was no scenario in which anyone could be declared a winner if it was used." - Don Neill

Poisoned Apples

Copyright © by Don Neill
Lyrics posted by permission of the author

Enrico and the boys are building deadly toys
Harvesting the apples of the sun
They split them open wide to find out what's inside
And in their dreams they're planting as they run

It's heavy water cold and secrets are untold
And dirty work that takes a steady hand
The field is never seen hidden like a dream
While need to know is carving up the land.

Edward, Arthur, John, turn and they have gone
Desperation calls them into place
For work without a name, they'll rearrange the game
And all become the man without a face.

Radiation burns and calls to take a turn
in service to the holy atom grail
Our best minds disappear behind a wall of fear
and learn to grab the dragon by the tail.

Your neutron firelight is burning up the night
a spark that once lit never deigns to die
The raven calls your name and then it spreads the fame
growing like a mushroom in the sky

All those who yearn to know just how far it can go
without the burden of a civil choice
Are gathering the tools to violate the rules,
to steal the fire, then to give it voice.

Fat Man, Little Boy, Armageddon's toys,
scientific sealing wax and string
The truth has broken down to seed the zero ground
With mushrooms in a poisoned fairy ring.

Radiation burns, will we ever learn
In service to the holy atom grail
Our future disappears behind a wall of fear
we've got much more than just a dragon's tail.

Enrico and the boys are building deadly toys
and stealing poisoned apples from the sun.


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