Monthly Archives: March 2016

The weather is warm and the sky is clear
when the plant workers clock on for the night shift
They talk of plans for the May Day holidays
before they begin the safety test of the water pumps
in the newly commissioned No 4 reactor.

At midnight, in the control room two senior engineers
begin to argue with the deputy chief engineer Dyatlov
about the correct power level at which to start the test.
The two senior engineers argue that the power is too low
but Dyatlov overrules them.

At 1.20am on April 26 1986, the test begins.
The power levels are lowered,
but drop too low and the reactor grinds to a stop.
A water shortage in the reactor sets off an alarm
but Dyatlov orders the engineers to continue.

They don’t know there is a flaw in the reactor
that makes it unstable when run on low power.
A hot spot is building deep at the bottom of the core.
The power to the turbine is turned off.
Steam pressure inside the core starts lifting

the 350 kilogram caps of fuel rods out of their sockets.
The engineers try to reduce the power but it’s too late –
the power surges hundreds of time higher.
Power is doubling every second
and more alarms are going off.

Steam pressure in the reactor’s hot spots
cannot be contained.
Fifty fuel rod shafts are torn apart.
The power escalates and turns the reactor
into a volcanic steam pressure cooker.

The reactor explodes and the plant loses all its electricity.
Seconds after the first explosion there is another one
and the reactor becomes a giant blowtorch
blasting the roof off sending 50 tonnes of nuclear fuel into the air,
ten times greater than Hiroshima.

The next day the Soviet government
makes an announcement:
An unsatisfactory radioactive situation has occurred
and as a temporary precaution all 135,000 people
must evacuate from the neighbourhood of Pripyat.

finding my way through
the five rivers
of the underworld
not easy rivers to navigate
paradise might not be within reach
I ask whose paradise is it?

before I enter the underworld
I want to talk to Charon
that old ferryman
an equal opportunity program
has been in place
it’s a ferrywoman this time
she’s taken the old name
has to it comes with the job
she ferries me across the Acheron
I weep and weep
and weep some more
a lake of tears
the woes of all
who have died before me

‘Magpies aardle
cars wake with a small snore’ – Lyn Hatherly (1945-2016)

When a poet with a poet’s eye, heart and mind
Dies we know that she could only have been
Made by another poet under the female moon
on a planet where the stones that take a million
years to emerge are the abrasive eggs of a womb
burning with images of life and visions of love.

When love shapes work, when living breathes
its warm mist on the frosty mind; when the poet
never leaves her poem; when the poem has gone
so far inside her that she need never spell it out,
we know she has done the work that gods have
always dreamed of doing. None of this we know
can save her from being cast precisely from the cliff
or save her from being shot like any bird from its sky
leaving everything she was unseen.

When she listened to the day waking up beside her
it was there falling in love with her all over again
with its magpies, streets, cars and gardens crowding up
to be in her poem with her, the endless poem
of love and grief and parting.

My grandmother read fairy tales to me
in an academic Greek, once the official language,
no longer common, but not exactly defunct.
I still have the book.
After she died, I read it to the neighbourhood strays,
the grey tabby could only bear it for so long
before wandering off. But she listened and looked attentive,
long enough for me to understand the animals,
did not look out for the good girls in the woods.

Penny Fang’s translation


就雲游他處, 但是她看上去自始至終都在


Singing I heard
from a few showers
from the apartment well
the showers ran
as a small ensemble
to the troupe

each discrete melody
I heard every drop on the tiles
making time signatures like the
sound of a marathon

oratorios of water
and washers at this time of night
it clicks to me
the notion
of whether or not
they can hear each other

considering their voices and shower
ring cycles are enough to keep their happy Bayreuths

the water is warm from where I stand.


th bug of


throwing objects

away, aren’t


they all but

things, un-


changing shrines, for

making us stay


Where was I

when they, and them and

those, and he and she

and we needed me, the most


Live     yr     fiery    colours in

full     flight     in the flesh

We tried to tell him16pt

The curtains are closed on the night
that flickers like the usual war out there.

It is something to go out and watch
from time to time.

We mash the potatoes as though
we’re stirring up another galaxy.

Today twenty children crouched on the floor
like frogs in front of a priest from Kenya

and he blessed each one with his big hands
all the time gazing at us with his amazed eyes.

The curtains are closed on the night
that breathes a little easier without us out there.

Somewhere a generator keeps everything going
we believe.

All it needs is the occasional kick and the odd
swear word from someone in overalls.

We eat the lamb, we pray to the lamb,
we dream of the lamb crying its name in the night.

The children bent themselves to their work today
because someone convinced them that this is work.

Everything here is bigger than we imagined,
even the pot holes.

The curtains have been pulled across the night

that is running at us from every direction now.

purple iris
it’s my grandmother
who appears

I have no reason
to attach irises to her
but it’s always my response

I was just six
when she died
I miss her still

she sat with me
when I had mumps
she encouraged us

to tell stories
to be creative
my life would have been different

if she had lived into
my teenage years
languages music and more

you can’t change history
our lives are what they are
we have to learn to live that

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