Steven DaLuz © 2015 All Rights Reserved
Newlyweds, Ukraine 1986
Poem found in the prologue of Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
I don't know what I should talk about—about death or about
summertime. Who’s going to explain how the mouth wants
a kiss, and a flame the whole sky? At first there were little
lesions in the morning. They came off in layers—white film,
a transparent curtain. Then burns like black handkerchiefs
came to the surface. The trolleys stopped running, the trains.
They were washing the streets with white powder. No
one told us a coffin could be built from a loaf of bread.
Barefoot in his formal wear my love squeezed into bed.
There was an orange on his table. A swollen one, pink.
He smiled: “I got a gift. Take it.” The nurse was gesturing
through the plastic film that I can't eat it. It had been near
him a while. Not only could you not eat it, you shouldn't
even look at it. “Come on,” he said, “you love oranges.”
Almost, pain is a row of books
is a row of books,
waterlogged, bulk buckling up against
itself in a long story. The days line up
indescribable; pages swell
and warp inward, wet paperweight
racked in the struggle to stand, to wring
sense from the garbling blotch.
Ascending the shelf, rot comes eating
the white out of noon, out of morning, rot
like an angel swallowing
mouthfuls of white you once tried to hold
above flood. Can you bear all
the water you hold in your heart?
Can you make out the words there,
Sarah J. Sloat grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Germany, where she works in news. Sarah’s poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Tinderbox, and Mead Magazine. Her chapbook Inksuite is available from Dancing Girl Press, which will also publish Sarah’s chapbook Heiress to a Small Ruin in late 2015.
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