Questions for Reflection: “Fall, 1961” by Robert Lowell

Back and forth, back and forth
goes the tock, tock, tock
of the orange, bland, ambassadorial
face of the moon
on the grandfather clock.
All autumn, the chafe and jar
of nuclear war;
we have talked our extinction to death.
I swim like a minnow
behind my studio window.
Our end drifts nearer,
the moon lifts,
radiant with terror.
The state
is a diver under a glass bell. ...”


1. How does Lowell confront an impending danger, a potential monumental historical disaster?
2. What pressures are evident in the poem?
3. How does Lowell react to discussions about the threat of the nuclear bomb?