Poetry Society of New Hampshire
Berber Poem (12th Century)
God divided beauty and ten carried it away
Soap, henna and silk -- these are three
The plough, the flocks, the swarms of bees
The sun when it rises on the mountain tops
The crescent moon, thin as a Christian's knife
With horses and with books we come to ten.
Taking Oranges to Chornobyl
On the president’s day of prayer
I heard: the rebellion of tools
a short history of progress
and a knock on a hidden door.
Three million children in Belarus
wear the beaded necklace of scars
and I wonder, Where are the nuke slayers
What about the mushrooms, the reindeer
The woodland people, the liquidators
the peasants who return to Pripyat,
My niece in Denmark? How do I serve
the dead and the dying?
I would take oranges to Chornobyl
See with my own eyes
the bison, wild boar and storks
at the Radioactive Ecological Reserve
The concrete crypt, seething surrounded by beet fields
Vladimir, in his shabby jacket with a bit of gold braid
keeper of the gate to the Exclusion Zone
the lead-lined concrete coffins of firemen
Radiation seeping from the sarcophagus
does not recognize: lines drawn on maps
concertina wire, the rickety gate, Vladimir
or the abandoned house among the fallen apples.
We come by bus with our trumpets to Chornobyl
to picnic together under the stunted pines
to eat forbidden fruit and remember
those who sleep beneath the gleaming peaches.