water comes frozen home in metal churn
hand-drawn on a wooden sled
shadows on linen-white snow
taller than the house
its regimental blue-framed windows
no higher than the satellite dish
behind the picket fence
for telephone connectivity
where Raisa has nursed her husband
through two bouts of the sickness

after this slumber my blood
began rising for no reason
headaches beyond the word
affects your mentality
on edge of nausea and memory loss

the mine now a ruin
six-storey living blocks
in concrete geometry
tumbled at the corner
under weight of snow
the bared walls’ colour
matching that of the sky

we have some doubts the village has an odd place
and strange weather patterns are often forced
to go smoke chimney down instead of up
so many sent their children
to other towns
I live on this street for 60 years
now where will they send?

a few dozen families remain
where thousands worked
uranium from the hard earth
in another country
another political time

sometimes I think they know the reason
and they are doing this
to drive us from this place
in voluntary resettlement
to re-establish some remote area
I saw a house they offer
I do not want
to live in such condition




you cannot see from here the human pelts
the traffic in the cities and the trade in lives
you cannot see the purpose of the power
dug out of the ground round here

you cannot see from here the rocket launch site
raised to rain destruction on far lands
now flinging into orbit satellites
for the navigation of family cars and vans




my brain switched off
that’s it, I don’t remember
I understood on waking
that I’d fallen asleep

I saw my daughter delirium
and you do not want it again
Margarita was horrible hallucinations
looked at me and told
Mama, you have three eyes
and there’s something
crawling on the radiator




tests are ongoing
on the air, soil, water, food
animals, building materials
and the people themselves

the broken settlement
settling into the soil
homes of miners once dispatched
from the centre now a foreign land

a lack of scientific facts
led to suspicion of the mine
that fed its power to nuclear
weapons and energy plants

radiation is within permissible levels
and the concentration of heavy metal salts
elevated levels of radon
were ruled out as the cause

there are no reports
of similar occurrences in mining times
we don’t have results
of the studies in our hands

some measures must be taken
this is a chance for the residents
of our village to find new homes
and new lives elsewhere




Dear Karim, based on the above, please pay attention
to the situation in the village Kalachi and that to date
there is no clear conclusion of the authorized body
of the reasons that cause encephalopathy of unknown etiology
despite the large number of studies

meanwhile villagers notice the disease progresses
on warm days, currently new patients with symptoms
revealed three to four times a week
for almost two years, population one quarter of the village
the first patient admitted March 2013, today 64 sick

this paper indicates the working group has conducted
more than laboratory, instrumental and clinical studies:
soil, air, water, food, fodder, building materials,
indoor air, patients with this type of disease
as well as all residents have been examined

out of all the studied factors was noted in excess
of 37 per cent of homes the presence of radioactive gas – radon
(increased to seven times) also in cases of blood
with increased levels of carbon monoxide
in water samples exceeding the radon ration three times

disease studies involve specialists of state bodies, in particular
the former ministry of health and its three research centers
the national security committee, ministry of internal affairs,
national nuclear centre and the American centre for control
and prevention of infectious diseases

studies and disease create social tension
in the village and small town Krasnogorsk
where previously it was suggested demolition
but thus convinced Sergey Lukashenko
director of the institute of radiation safety:

that sleepy disease is not caused by radiation poisoning
although he’s slightly elevated, my deep belief
we sweep aside this factor that cannot act, we sweep aside
almost a factor of exposure to heavy metals, this is also verified
in this case, according to measurements




we have some suspicions
we are all in fear
of falling asleep
between hauling water
from the standpipe

and then she looked over my shoulder
and cried Mama
you have three eyes and something
is crawling on the radiator





Great Man Theory

he does not flinch
as a fly lands on his arm
then his forehead,
walks along his hairline,
settles finally on his eyeball
lays its eggs
in the pink inner corner
of the open lid
by the tearduct

any such thesis of the world
must account for
      Charlotte Corday
      Vera Zasulich
      Gavrilo Princip
      Nathuram Godse
      the headless torso of Danton
      the suspended form of Clara Petacci
      Hilde, Helga and Helmut
Holde, Hedda and Heidi Goebbels
poisoned by parents
who could not let them outlive them

Mussolini’s corpse, hung by the ankles
from the Esso station roof
stiffened with arms stretched
pushes back against the closing coffin lid
in imperial salute

Lenin, on tour to the faithful
acquires an unwholesome pallor
green mould grows on the tips of his fingers
and the end of his nose





New Fire

And the prince smote the cities of his enemies with the new fire, and for three days and nights did his great catapults and metal birds rain wrath upon them. Over each city a sun appeared and was brighter than the sun of heaven, and immediately that city withered and melted as wax under the torch – Walter M Miller Jnr, A Canticle for Leibowitz


we cross the harsh light of gravel flatlands
seeking our plastic souvenirs
a model missile silo kit for the kids

the launch sites are buried deep
safe from any blast except their own
grate-covered holes bear a warning:
toxic vapours

escape by miscalculation
tracked by government weathervanes
rattlers won’t get past the blast doors
to the no lone zone

fully operational the B61-12
is a nuclear gravity bomb
the test flight employed
no highly enriched uranium
or plutonium, consistent
with test treaty obligations
in a demonstration of effective
end-to-end system performance

walkie-talkies are banned in the missile shaft
to stave off degradation of guidance
a long green catwalk suspended from above
in the lamplit cave of the silo

delivery was effected
by an F-15E from Nellis Air Force Base
in a realistic guided environment
all scheduled activities successful
telemetry and video data collected

we pass the pamphlets around at parties
delivering the ordnance with the canapes                 
someone unthinking asks
what happened to the guy
who dropped the ratchet on the rocket

here you may wait patiently
for a message that never comes

the upgrade is a dumb bomb
enhancing national security
through nuclear science
improved accuracy and lower yield
considered usable

targets and ballistic calculations
calibrated to a fine degree of death
unless your walkie-talkie fucks the guidance

Oshita-chan lived approximately
12 hours after pikadon





[Aidan Semmens is a freelance journalist and editor of the online poetry magazine Molly Bloom. His fourth poetry collection, Life Has Become More Cheerful, from which these poems come, will be published by Shearsman Books in October 2017 to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution.]

Copyright © 2017 by Aidan Semmens, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.