Every season is one season to Lyudmila.
Pollen pills the air. Night fades down. Lyudmila’s mind
whistles down its regular rails.
On TV the same three men,
one doctor, one chemist, one lost to time,
promise in static to the populace.
Don’t worry. Don’t drink
the water—drink red wine. Red wine
vanishes from the shelves.
Lilacs bloom. The stations clog
with women, clutching their children, boarding
every train, any train, as long as the direction is
away. Lyudmila sends her children away.
Lyudmila comes home from work,
in Kyiv, then Kiev, and showers, and showers,
and showers. For months,
she tastes metal in the air.
On TV, on loop, a helicopter breaks
apart, mid-air, in grainy black
and white and gray. Cracks
into pieces. As smoothly as if someone tugged on a string
that runs along the seams
of the world.
It stays with me all night. All
night I run the fingers of my heart along the seams
of my body—throat, lungs, breasts, knees, collar-
bones. By the time Chernobyl crashed, her husband
had been dead ten years. Now the town
is home to bison and wolves. Like any disaster,
it has its tourists.