Ten years ago the machines failed us as no one was in
These are the facts:
250 times the radiation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined
135,000 people had to be evacuated.
1,000 immediate injuries,
10,000 square miles contaminated, the size of Maryland.
Dangerous levels of radiation were deposited in 20 countries.
By September 31 people had died from exposure to something
no one could see.
On that April 26th, 1986 I was in the
drying out from the warm wet snow.
Tuned to a tiny radio, we heard the news.
“Radioactive clouds are coming your way.”
We looked up at the sky, no one knew how to tell,
To know what was safe, and what was not.
Every country had to do something rather than nothing.
In England people were told not to drink the milk.
In Germany they said don’t drink the water for a week.
In Lapland they killed thousands of reindeer the following Fall.
The reactions seemed random,
just to show the powers had reacted,
But no one really knew what to do.
Today it’s called the “Zone”
The reactor is sealed inside a concrete block called “the Sarcophagus”
It’s the most radioactive building on the planet.
put it in a film long ago, before it even happened:
the empty future, walking through nature
so tentatively, as if all were a time bomb,
already set off:
“The ‘peaceful atom’ wipes towns off the face of the Earth.”
Thousands of animals, plants, whole villages, buried
Hundreds of contaminated vehicles lie on the blacktop.
There’s a huge fence around, no one is allowed in.
I have seen the faded pictures of empty helicopters and tanks,
so I am inclined to believe the worst.
Yet people have come back, making homes on the dead land!
Some are holding onto family plots,
Others sneak in to be left alone.
Everything they grow is contaminated—
except for the apples.
No one knows why the apples test okay.
When all else dies,
there still must be safe apples
knowledge still there to be tasted once more
Are there lizard-headed pigs, eight legged calves?
No one outside is sure who to believe.
Women give birth not to monsters but to disabled children.
Men suffer strokes in their thirties.
Death hits at random.
The old Soviet myth never promised that no one would be
Now some have found space and time here—
They say the Zone is kinder than the rest of the world.
Spread the blame as far as it goes
Whose fault, whose fault?
Some go home again, some forget
Some live as if none of this ever happened. 
|1||Ten years ago the machines failed us as no one was in charge.|
|2||The looming subsumes us from war to peace.|
|3||You remember the story (it’s not yet over)|
|4||The voice of the wind,|
|5||There’s an old swing set rusting in the woods.|
|6||Someone blew up the mountain|
|7||The old order is turned asunder|
|8||A bomb left a hole gaping at the street corner|
|9||The philosopher has returned to his homeland|
|10||You enter the room and the day is still sunny|
|12||What changes is the will to change|
|13||One song after another, not to impress,|
|14||If you’re driving long enough|
|15||This age of ours always hangs on|