The Chernobyl Suite 2

Near the Chernobyl exclusion zone today

The Chernobyl Suite, Part 2

7. A Year Later: May 1987 Ein Jahr Später: Mai 1987

first they took away the clouds erst nahmen sie die Wolken
then the ocean’s blue cells, world lung dann das Meeresblut, Weltenlunge

I got used to the security windows ich gewöhnte mich
the daily dose of catastrophes, an Isolierfenster
buttons, cameras, the inscape und die tägliche Dosis
of numbers you need to know to eat lächerlicher Katastrophen

frankly forests die Wälder waren ja auch immer
have never really done anything so matschig
for me anyway und ich werde mich nicht fragen,
ob ich noch ein Bewusstsein
snails, worms, snakes dessen habe, was ich verloren,
can rot in hell dass so gut wie alles
all words, heart-voice am schwinden ist
once threw forth was einmal
is ebbing, gently das WORT, die STIMME
repackaged driftwood hervortrieb
on an empty beach ist nun mal vergessen und verkannt
blurred static während Antennen, Kabel, Türme
on electric glass sehr rege kommunizieren
no one is watching mit anderem Fleisch
while antennae, cables, towers und Gräser, Kellerasseln, Ameisen
communicate with gusto posthumane Menschen
and other thing-meat drauf and dran sind
and grasses, slaters, ants, zu erben
posthuman humans are die stillen Hallen des Silikons
about to inherit
the silent silicon halls hört sie jetzt
in den Rissen
hear them now zwischen den Zeilen
in the cracks der Nachrichtensprecher
between the lines
of newsreaders

(May 1987)

8. “The Ukrainian Word for Wormwood is Chernobyl”

(from Frederick Pohl’s Chernobyl. A Novel (1987). — “A well-executed thriller…brings the story home”
– San Francisco Chronicle)

And the third angel sounded,
And there fell a great star from heaven,
Burning as it were a lamp,
And it fell upon the third part of the rivers,
And upon the fountains of the waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood:
And the third part of the waters became wormwood;
And many men died of the waters,
Because they were made bitter.

The wind is in from the east.
The baby’s dummy flops into the dust.
Buddha grandma looks on,
impassive as a newsreader.
Helicopters are X-rayed
pouring sand into the expiring gullet
of the Wounded Beast.

These hills, these plains, these acid rivers,
These jewelled conurbations
are now a laboratory under empty skies.
We look up for some sign. The air
seems furry and out of focus. We find
no portents, no revelations emblazoned
on angels’ wings.

The stomach’s pit kicks
with a change profounder
than the tongue can twist.
We scurry for cover like rats
for the button. Most clever creatures
resilient to all manner of plague,
constricting under the ignorant screws
that rivet our muscles to the wheel,
our eyeballs to the screens
as joyous electrons crystallize
into an expert in armchair.

Acting out an expert in an armchair,
advising caution, calm,
Reason – as his religion collapses.
(Avoid milk, ice cream, greens,
grass, rain, gloveless dusting and life
for a few days, weeks, months
and go shopping
with the Combined Bequerel/Chemicals Chart
until it all blows over or up or under and out
and hose down the kids before bed). The Smile
Of Tranquillity and now back
to the World Cup in Mexico.

Unto us is given this bitter star.
It lies as true as the lives we lead.
As useful as the Second Coming.
As real as a TV screen
illuminating a family
in its happy sarcophagus.
One Body, One Mind,
Two Paychecks. Synchronized
silent hosannas, floating
in the clouds of eternal amusement.

The threads of cells unravelling
and dissolving at the quick. Our schedules
are not marked for mourning. The future
grins in the marrows of our bones.

Hold me now, pull up
the sheet beneath
this tilting air.

[‘The Ukrainian word for Wormwood is Chernobyl’ was published in my chapbook The Knee Monologues and Other Poems (Picaro Press 2009)]

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 25, 2011.

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