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      Atom City, Ukraine

I. Prypiat Funfair

The locked Ferris wheel arcs
against the horizon,

a honey fungus
flexing its golden gills.

from petrified cogs,

the cars seed
the ash trees below

with powdered rust.
Beeswax capsules

loft through dead air
like irradiated spores.

II. Worm Wood Forest

A plume of light
leached sphagnum moss
from the cold bark
of the nuclear forest.

The oak groves steamed;
the black alders flushed ginger.
Hornbeams grew gigantic,
roots and trunks coiling like double yolks.

Each thorny pine, each saxifrage
and small-flowered bitter,
was bulldozed and buried
in a vast fen grave.

The half-life soil
under its cargo
of nettled atoms;
a corncrake quarried
the fissured stream
for pike, its beak
a carpenter's rasp.

III. The Pier

Patched barges sluice sideways
into the phosphorescent river,

their bellies black bison,
scabbed with radiation.

The barge captains evacuated
long ago, pressure-dazed, slipping

through the alienation zone
like wild boar. What remains, now:

cucumber shoots drilling
the greenhouse glass, storks

nesting in the melted reactor,
the schoolhouse a wreck of scalded textbooks,

everywhere the quivering taste
of pins, as if a hedgehog quilled with aluminum

had invaded the dusty samovars
of each sealed concrete tenement.

The barges wait some final passage
like latten ferries embedded in the River Styx.

Hilary S. Jacqmin

Missing Persons
Waywiser Press / Dufour Editions

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