Not nude exactly, pajama'd in mud,
The grandfathers stood like unlovely trees
Crooking bare branches as our train curved past,
The century flown forward without them.
A bean field away the old women swayed,
Furrowed bellies and breasts daubed like birds' nests,
A fairy-tale forest of breathing bark
Summoned by spell or tribal ritual,
A final spasm of pagan pleasure.
Mesmerized too, we gazed from the window,
Returning waves, their scythed, crescent gestures,
Their mute acknowledgment of time passing
As mud hardened and only eyes or lips
Or the spark of one pink fingertip glowed
In irradiated, Chernobyl dusk.
Surreal, you muttered, but forced a wave
As we were mirrored in glass streaked with grit
And struck at each curve by sunset's stutter,
As though the hammer still fell on this last
Generation to have suffered world war,
Who heal themselves by interring themselves
In curative earth before the last death.