Vast the landscape I watch that rolls out, ragged,
Before my eyes, hurt words describing, haggard.
Moby soothes me but a little as I watch still fractured sights
Of what was and is in Chernobyl.
Marshlands filled with death and mutation,
Homely houses putrid with abandonment and radiation.
Broken tokens of people’s former lives and loves –
Where are they now?
Their hairless dolls, sitting in the middle of rooms,
Bathtubs, broken and oblique, empty.
Soap washes memory and nothing else away.
The sky has spoken; it is broken.
Push the poison out to sea. To see
They hadn’t time to leave a memory,
But ran, already dead while living,
Not allowed to gather souvenirs.
There’s nothing left for them here.
But did they die?
Nobody told us where they went,
They are gone now, dispersed in Eurasia I suppose,
Like ash in the wind, like their future or past ghosts.
They haunt the places, the buildings and the waters,
Engulfing fish, and drying fungus on the northern trees,
Watching wolves still move through winter freeze,
Still beautiful in the taiga sun.
Tainted yet rife with energy not destroyed,
Trying to paint its passion on the sides of walls,
To venerate the people here and their lives,
Their animals, their clothing only frozen.
This poem was inspired by a young woman, Elena Filatova whose Internet name was KidOfSpeed. She lived (lives?) in Russia and rode her motorbike into the forbidden zone around Chernobyl, taking videos of the various scenes:
houses, roads, forests, cities (Pripyat), all abandoned and overgrown. She has since posted more videos, though they are less "shattering"; she uses drones and was exposed by someone as just another tourist who happened to bring a motorbike and helmet on a tour. Not sure if it's true, but to me, anyone who goes into that area is brave!