Čornóbyl (Wormwood) by Ilona Martonfi

They built on marshes, smelled of peat.
They on kolkhoz farms along the Pripyat
form a quarantine wall.
110 kilometers from Kiev
collect stories about resettlers.
They wait, but no one ever came back
they, from the village of Lubyanka,
get 34 Euro cents a month for coffin money.
No birds singing. No wind
colourless, shapeless
waters made bitter.
On Saturday, April 26, 1986, 1:23 am,
they look into the eyes of children
they, who did not warn of the danger
200-ton of congealed toxic lump
in the basement of nuclear Reactor 4
they shift from documentary to imagery.
They poison with strontium and cesium.
They abandon gas masks.
They take along irradiated sand.
They, of the cursed land.
Blue-painted izba –timber house.

They did not tell us
about tiredness. Aching joints,
wild blueberries. Plum compote.
Radioactive black grass. Leukemia.
They, the bald, blue-eyed five year old.

Ilona Martonfi lives in Montreal. Author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy, (Coracle Press, 2009.) Black Grass, (Broken Rules Press 2012). Forthcoming, The Snow Kimono, (Inanna Publications, Fall 2015). Published in various literary mags. Poet, editor, teacher. Founder, director of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings, co-founder of Lovers and Others. QWF 2010 Community Award.

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