Even the robots refuse. Down tools. Jerk up
their blocked heads, shiver in invisible hail. Helicopters
spin feet from disaster, caught in that upwards cone
of technicide – then ditch elsewhere, spill black running guts.
Not the Firemen. In rubber gloves and leather boots
they walk upright, silent as brides. Uppers begin
to melt. Soles grow too hot for blood. Still they shovel
the graphite that is erasing marrow, spine, balls –
that kick-starts their DNA to black and purple liquid life.
Then the Soldiers. Nervous as children. They re-make it –
erect slabs with the wide stare of the innocent, crosshatch
the wreck roughly with steel, fill it in with that grey
crayon of State Concrete. In soiled beds, in the dreams
of their mothers, they liquefy. Yet Spring still chooses
this forest, where no deer graze and roots strike upwards.
Fissures open in the cement – rain finds them. They grow:
puff spores of poison. Concrete and lead can only take
so much. What remains must be done by flesh.
– Mario Petrucci
from Heavy Water: a poem for Chernobyl
† Ukritye (‘The Shelter’)
is the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl complex.
It still contains around 20 tons of nuclear fuel.
Mario Petrucci is an award-winning poet, physicist, freelance creative writing tutor, broadcaster and educator. He has been Poet in Residence at the Imperial War Museum, BBC Radio 3, and at the Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. Launched on the 18th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the book-length poem Heavy Water is based on first-hand accounts of the tragedy published by the journalist Svetlana Alexievich in Voices from Chernobyl (Aurum Press, 1999).
Visit Mario’s website here.
For more Tuesday Poems, visit http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.
5 Replies to “Tuesday Poem – “Ukritye”, by Mario Petrucci”
What a powerful poem, delivered like a punch and yet speaking straight to the heart. Great choice.
Thanks. Given what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico, I couldn’t help but go back to this collection and this poem. We don’t seem to learn, do we?
That’s a tremendous poem in its own right, and a tantalising taster for the full collection: thanks for posting it, Joanna.
Thanks Tim. I can strongly recommend the collection – the evening that I finished reading it for the first time I went straight to the computer and ordered three more copies to give to friends. It really is that good.
A gobsmacking piece, thanks for posting this.