Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
 
     

POEMS ON CHERNOBYL

The two poems are reprinted, with the kind permission of the poet, from Mario Petrucci's Heavy Water: a Poem for Chernobyl, published by Enitharmon Press. Heavy Water was inspired by the book Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, (translated by Antonina Bouis, published by Aurum Press) which records interviews with the survivors of Chernobyl. Copies of Heavy Water may be ordered from Enitharmon Press at http://www.enitharmon.co.uk, or direct from the poet at http://mariopetrucci.port.5.com

Some background material on the accident at Chernobyl may be advisable as an introduction to the poem. Further information can be found here on the SCND web-site. Also helpful is the information that the slabs for the 'sarcophagus' around Ukritye were put up with the help of helicopters and robots and the haste in constructing it is said to be a cause of the cracks which have developed in it (See 'Voices from Chernobyl', p.2).

Detailed Questions which have been discussed with the poet and Notes on these are given separately.

UKRITYE
Ukritye ('The Shelter') is the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl complex.

Even the robots refuse. Down tools. Jerk up
their blocked heads, shiver in invisible hail. Helicopters

spin feet from disaster, caught in that upward cone
of technicide - then ditch elsewhere, spill black running guts.

Not the Firemen. In black 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.


FENCE

This side of the fence
is clean. That side
dirty. Understand?

You must forget
that soil is like skin.
Or interlocking scales

on a dragon. Dirty
Clean - is all that matters
here. Imagine a sheet

of glass coming down
from the sky. It's easy
no? On this side

you can breathe
freely. Your cow can
eat the grass. You can

have children. That side
you must wear a mask
and change the filter

every four hours.
You ask - What if my cow
leans over the fence?

Personally I say
it depends which end. But
we have no instructions

for that. It is up to you
to make sure your cow
is not so stupid.


 

TEACHERS ARE INVITED TO SEND POEMS AND OTHER WORK BY THEIR CLASSES ARISING FROM WORK ON THESE POEMS TO A.C. CLARKE c/o SCND OFFICE, 15 BARRLAND STREET, GLASGOW G41 1QH (email: acclarke6@btopenworld.com)

Copyright Mario Petrucci

 

Teachers should feel free to reproduce these poems for use in class. They may not be reproduced for any other purpose (e.g. on other sites or in other publications) without the permission of the author.