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The Girl from Chernobyl


It was a September day in 2010

I was trying to rebuild my life when

a conference brought me to Minsk


This was my first time in the Belarussian capital

two months before elections, Lukashenko was doing his all

to be voted President for the fourth time since 1994


I took a few days free

in this country hitherto unknown to me

to visit and explore


I sought out the part of town

where I had read Oswald used to hang around

I met an old man who upon my request


Showed me where Harvey and his Russian wife

used to spend their life

the entrance to their building 


The old codger upon my insistence 

claimed Oswald’s innocence

a fabrication invented by the CIA


But what I really want to tell you

is about a girl I ran in to

at the monument to Chernobyl


I sat down at the place

a rotunda without a face

a structure without personality


When appeared a young lady

who took a seat across from me

for a while we remained in silence


Then the girl began to cry

putting a handkerchief to her eye

I was at a loss


I summoned up my courage

and tried to encourage

her to tell me what had brought her to tears


From Chernobyl she was, and as a good daughter

visiting Minsk, she had come to pay respects to her father

who had perished in the conflagration of 1986


Her dad had been one of the firefighting men

who were sent into reactor four when

the pyre was about to spin out of control


The girl was twenty-four

I didn’t find out much more

except that she never knew her father


When her dad risked his all

not knowing whether he would fall

her mother was pregnant with her


I told her how my mother

through the Spanish flu had lost her father

nineteen days before her birth 


We parted in all innocence 

I want to sense

that the sharing of our stories


helped her heal her wound

however, it felt challenging and profound

    -  at least a little bit

Click to read in Spanish

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  Ode to Herbert Wood


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