Chernobyl Year


by Jehanne Dubrow

We dreamed of glowing children,
their throats alive and cancerous,
their eyes like lightning in the dark.

We were uneasy in our skins,
sixth grade, a year for blowing up,
for learning that nothing contains

that heat which comes from growing,
the way our parents seemed at once
both tall as cooling towers and crushed

beneath the pressure of small things—
family dinners, the evening news,
the dead voice of the dial tone.

Even the ground was ticking.
The parts that grew grew poison.
Whatever we ate became a stone.

Whatever we said was love became
plutonium, became a spark
of panic in the buried world.

About the Author:

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Stateside. She serves an assistant professor in creative writing and literature at Washington College. In her spare time, she teaches classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2010 by Jehanne Dubrow. Poem reprinted from West Branch, No. 66, 2010, by permission of Jehanne Dubrow and the publisher.