Atomograd

Hilary S. Jacqmin

Atom City, Ukraine

I. Prypiat FunfairThe locked Ferris wheel arcs
against the horizon,a honey fungus
flexing its golden gills.Suspended
from petrified cogs,the cars seed
the ash trees belowwith powdered rust.
Beeswax capsulesloft through dead air
like irradiated spores.

II. Worm Wood ForestA 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
silvered
under its cargo
of nettled atoms;
a corncrake quarried
the fissured stream
for pike, its beak
a carpenter’s rasp.

III. The PierPatched barges sluice sideways
into the phosphorescent river,their bellies black bison,
scabbed with radiation.The barge captains evacuated
long ago, pressure-dazed, slippingthrough the alienation zone
like wild boar. What remains, now:cucumber shoots drilling
the greenhouse glass, storksnesting in the melted reactor,
the schoolhouse a wreck of scalded textbooks,everywhere the quivering taste
of pins, as if a hedgehog quilled with aluminumhad invaded the dusty samovars
of each sealed concrete tenement.The barges wait some final passage
like latten ferries embedded in the River Styx.

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Hilary S. Jacqmin

Hilary S. Jacqmin was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1979 and grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and works as an editor for Baltimore Review and for Johns Hopkins University Press. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including AGNI Online, Best New Poets 2011, FIELD, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, Oxford Poetry, Raintown Review, and Subtropics.

Missing Persons is one of the best debut poetry collections that I’ve read in years. Jacqmin’s poems are richly varied in syntax, diction, and form. They’re also funny, and at times surprisingly hard-edged—but whether Jacqmin is writing about dry drunks, a fastidious Latin teacher, or a grown-up Jughead adrift in Tokyo, she never allows herself to affect an attitude of being superior to her subject matter. Instead, she patiently, faithfully seeks out real mysteries and works to articulate them in all their strangeness.”
—James Arthur

“I admire the intelligent ultra talk of Hilary Jacqmin’s virtuosic and revealing poems. A full life is lived on these pages, and it flickers with light and dark”.
—Henri Cole

“Jacqmin has a particular gift for portraits in miniature. Young loves, Girl Scouts, sex ed teachers, a father, a mother—all are rendered lovely and interesting through the delicate treatment of the imagination. And, as with any wunderkammer, we want to return to the glimmering rooms of these poems again and again, discovering each time we visit something new to hold and behold.”
—Jehanne Dubrow

“There is a wised-up kindness and exuberance to this work that makes Jacqmin’s poems the best of company, well-spoken guests always invited back.”
—Wyatt Prunty

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