“Chernobyl” by George Bilgere

George Bilgere


I wish I were in Chernobyl today.
The streets are peaceful there.
No cars or bicycles rush by, no one
is late for work.
There are no children
laughing on the playground
or getting into trouble.

The file cabinets
in the police department
are full of mice,
and the outcome of the important vote
at the General Assembly
doesn’t matter.

There are plenty of vacancies
at the brand-spanking-new state prison,
and for once, no one
is talking in the library.
Not even a dog is out today
pursuing important errands.

Life in my city is tiring.
Deadlines and unread books.
Making love, or dinner.
So many people to disappoint,
so much to buy in the supermarket.
Almost unbearable, this city.

But today in Chernobyl
the clocks have given up.
Nobody monitors the phones,
and every night the movie theater
shows the same old silent film.

Does anyone have a question?

The houses of Chernobyl tend their silences,
and on the dinner table
two gray sandwiches are waiting
with such quiet patience.
Like an old married couple.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


George Bilgere: “Every summer my wife and two little boys and I travel to Berlin, Germany, for three glorious months. In the mornings I wander down the shady little street we live on and sit with my notebook at an outdoor cafe improbably called Shlomo’s Coffee and Bagels. I order a coffee, open my notebook, and for the next two hours or so I sit there hoping a poem will find me. These are the happiest moments of my life, even when the poem I’m waiting for stands me up.” (web)

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