The earth has always been so accommodating,
enfolding all kinds of calamities: the meteoric end
of dinosaurs, the Neanderthals and other botched experiments,
the debris of bronze and iron ages, modern battlegrounds . . .
And there is still so much space! For us to tuck away
these bull-dozed villages, lorries loaded with fallout,
electrically-charged farm animals (appropriately neutralised),
even a pine forest (gamma-rayed). Pat it all down.
Permit yourself to rest without a bothersome pop or tick.
(We have reinforced concrete for those more insistent sounds—
the kind that leach the pigment from eyes,
blister hearts as they are beating … )
What a piece of work is Man! A wise industrial sentiment—
and too often overlooked in newfangled forecasts of automation.
Lest we forget: that remote-controlled backhoe committed harakiri
from the clifftop of reactor 3, after reaching its emissions capacity …
and look who saved the day! Triumphant as a plague,
crawling out the rabbit hole of history
in wave after wave, armoured in medieval scraps of lead
and muzzled for respiration. (Pig-faced, as the jesters said!)
They had 40 seconds to shovel contaminants (flung from reactor 4)
off the tower’s precipice. (We had plans for mass burial down below … )
Have faith, we said, there is nothing terrifying up there—2
but best to run like the dog, flee like the hare.
Scoop a spadeful or two of that hot stuff away and scram!
Before your bones and teeth are meaningless …
How they moved: like roof cats! It was only afterwards they stopped,
slumping together in the sheltered halls like litters of stillborn …
Mind you: some of them are still ticking!
(We had to ban embalming and open caskets … )
100 roubles is all it took—so many bought it.
Of course, we honoured their corps in cement, right at ground zero,
where the birds have returned, against all those glum forecasts.
Listen to them: chirruping away with the Geiger counters.
3. Dark Tourism3
Today we celebrate the half-life of caesium 137
with this sceptical offer: one-day tours only for US$!
Exchange phones for dosimeters and be mesmerised
as battery-powered crickets stridulate in a peace that is
truly ionising. Visitors are most welcome to observe
swans silvering in the cooling pond of radionuclides.
Drip-feed the gargantuan catfish (not recommend for eating.)
The retro excavator parked outside the sarcophagus
is a favourite haunt of the barn swallow, its pale throat
a world-first in partial albinism! Marvel at our mushrooms,
21.88 micro Sieverts’ worth and prized by bank voles
with cataracts—so rare! No need to fear our wolves;
they thrive on dogs left over from the original liquidators.
But best to update your shots: even rabies blossoms here!
How fortunate to have liberated the Earth of some people.
And thanks to the rich and varied lives of plutonium,
we are guaranteed to be more-or-less free of human habitation—
and open for business—for another 24,000 years.
4. The Red Forest4
Dress the wicker basket with cloth and sash.
Set it on the path still running through the woods.
Perhaps a bear, a boar, a raven, a bee . . .
The children have been sent from the village.
All the horses have been shot.
Wind fills the grass with its emptiness.
Once there was a hunter, a dwarf, a witch, a seamstress . . .
Who will sew up the tear in the fabric of our world?
5. What Was Invisible Now Becomes Visible5
the spider’s pure and abstract
longing for itself.
The jaw of a waking fox
unlocks the silence
Lichen brushes the lips
of the stag burdened
by dreams of lightning.
Potatoes push up from
the earth like nubs
The moon is the ghost
of a rock in
the broken sky of dawn.
The sun has
already discovered everything
including what we have done.
- The men sent in to deal with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant accident in the Ukraine were called ‘liquidators’, a word derived from the Russian verb “likvidator” (ликвида́торы), which means ‘to eliminate’ or ‘to eliminate the consequences of an accident.’ Hundreds of thousands were deployed there. ↩
- General Nicolai Tarakanov advised the reservists assembled beneath the roof of reactor three, which was littered with radioactive graphite and uranium rods from the explosion of reactor four: ‘Comrades, you should know … that I was up on the roof two days ago with an officer, and one thing for sure I can tell you is that there’s nothing terrifying.’ ↩
- Chernobyl is part of an international industry in dark tourism, or tourism to places associated with death and suffering. On its company website, Chornobyl Tour boasts ‘absolute radiation safety of the tourists, granted by our own studies’ and the ‘ultimate goal of … turning the zone into UNESCO world heritage site.’ ↩
- The Red Forest is so-named because the needles of the pine trees there turned red following exposure to radiation. The trees were subsequently bull-dozed and interred. The accident at Chernobyl is said to have contaminated the environment 20 times more than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. ↩
- In 2014 video footage, the biologist Timothy Mousseau, studying the effects of radiation on the flora and fauna of Chernobyl, sprays water onto an irregularly shaped spider web and declares: ‘What was invisible now becomes visible.’ ↩
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 91: NO THEME VIIISUBMIT to C Gaskin 90: MONSTERwith N Curnow, coming soon! 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith Fiona Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith Vladimir Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith Judith Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith Keri Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with Dan Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with Pam Brown 52.0: TOIL with Carol Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with Luke Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with Bonny Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with John Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with Tracy Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with Corey Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with Michael Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with Felicity Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with Jan Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with Derek Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with Kent MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with Ann Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with Gig Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with Duncan Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with Kent MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with Libby Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with Sarah Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with Sam Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with Astrid Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with Sean Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with Alan Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with Jill Jones
- Alex Creece Reviews Marion May Campbell’s third body
- Ivy Ireland Reviews Steve Armstrong
- Magan Magan Reviews deciBels 3
- Claire Albrecht Reviews Manisha Anjali’s Sugar Kane Woman
- Review Short: Simeon Kronenberg’s Distance
- Review Short: Judith Beveridge’s Sun Music: New and Selected Poems
- Melody Paloma Reviews Keri Glastonbury
- Submission to Cordite 91: NO THEME VIII
- Judith Bishop Reviews Phillip Hall’s Fume
- Bella Li on as Associate Publisher
- Alex Creece on as Production Editor
- Review Short: Diane Fahey’s November Journal and Carmen Leigh Keates’s Meteorites
- Review Short: Vahni Capildeo’s Seas and Trees and Jennifer Harrison’s Air Variations
- To Outlive a Home: Poetics of a Crumbling Domestic
- ‘The Rally Is Calling’: Dashiell Moore Interviews Lionel Fogarty
- Jackie Ryan: Teaser to Burger Force 3
- Dispatch from the Future Fish
- Introduction to Cordite 89: DOMESTIC
- 7 Portraits by Ali Gumillya Baker
- Selections from 3 Yhonnie Scarce Series
- Kathy Acker and The Viewing Room
- To Live There: on ‘Dispatch from the Future Fish’
- The Wild Workshop: The Ghost of a Brontëan Childhood in the Life of Dorothy Hewett
- Externalising the Symptom: Radicalised Youth and The Membrane
- On Deep Breaths and Friends Forever: Im/materiality and Mis/communication in Happy Angels Revisited
- Letter to Anne Carson: Work of Remembrance and Mourning
- Translated Extracts from Chantal Danjou