The Ranks of the Dead

You can thank Able and Linn
for chlorinating the water
saving millions of lives
and you can thank Edward Jenner
for eradicating smallpox
providing five hundred million with continued life
or Norman Borlaug
for feeding a quarter billion
with some resilient wheat.

These great men deserve great praise
as heroic artists
who saved
through their work
a very great many of us
most of us never even knowing.

Take Haber and Bosch
whose fake fertilizer
found fantastic ways to feed billions.

And Fleming with his penicillin
and Landsteiner,
that melancholy genius
father to both hematology
and immunology
who learned about blood types
allowing successful transfusions?
Billions of lives left living between them
because of them.

They warrant appreciation
though they are gone
so cannot appreciate it.

Joining the ranks of the dead,
so recently,
is Stanislav Petrov,
once disgraced soviet officer
who was upbraided
for not following procedure
in 1983.

When his computers declared
that silver-lined clouds
were really American missiles,
calm Petrov read the evidence,
and decided whether to inform Moscow
that the Curtain was to be pierced.

If he had,
surely none of us would be here today
as the MAD war ensuing
would have ended all.

But Petrov kept mum
calling “false alarm!”
The world failed to end
and the lieutenant colonel was reprimanded
for failing to file the proper papers.
He lost his position,
had a breakdown,
and finally died
all after saving more humans
than anyone else ever.

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