At the Chernobyl Power Plant Eco-reserve, and: Landscape with Translucent Moon, and: The Understory, and: Landscape with Peregrine Falcon and Hart Crane, and: Refingering the Chords for “Blackberry Blossom”
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At the Chernobyl Power Plant Eco-reserve, and: Landscape with Translucent Moon, and: The Understory, and: Landscape with Peregrine Falcon and Hart Crane, and: Refingering the Chords for “Blackberry Blossom”
At the Chernobyl Power Plant Eco-reserve

If ravens perch on the Ferris wheeloutside of town, if owlsnest in the silos and swallows circlethe tipped watchtower, if catfishbloat in the cooling pool and elkgraze on perennial beard grass,if boars rake their tusksamong the roots, if blackstorks claim the cloud-blightedpines of Red Forest, if wiresuccumbs to rust, if lichen,if shingles unhinge in the snow,if untrafficked lots cede landto yarrow, if mirrors, if spoonsreflect the sky, if watches tickin unopened drawers, if swollen,if stiff-maned Przewalski’s horsesfoal, if wolves, if then, if then, if [End Page 99]

Jennifer Atkinson

inline graphicJennifer Atkinson is the author of four collections of poetry. The most recent, Canticle of the Night Path, won Free Verse’s New Measure Prize in 2012. Poems have appeared in journals including Field, Image, Witness, New American Writing, Poecology, Terrain and Cincinnati Review. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at George Mason University.

Landscape with Translucent Moon

Palm trees, like old pilings, tipin the sand toward the Maldive Islands still.The moon,          a slice of green coconut, floatsin a sky streaky with cloud.

Eight winters after the tsunami hit,               offshorethe coral reef is reinventing itselfby fits and starts, by hook and footand reef-wasn’t-built-in-a-day               steady calm.Patience comes easy to gastropods.

The after-warnews is of atrocity, in this like               before-, during, after-war news everywhere: rape, torture, mass graves,the usual list, human powerreasserting itself               on the bodies of others.

Deep in the once               jungled, once war-rivenTamil north, a Buddha carved in living stonestill falls smiling into death,               serene these last thousand years.How many warshas that peace survived?

It’s said that just before he died,the historical Buddha              sent south to Sri Lankaa slip from the originalenlightenment tree at Bodh Gaya. [End Page 100] That tree planted between the sites of tsunami and waris now the oldest tree on earth, a living               emblem of compassionfor these last two thousand years.

It’s guarded night and day at gunpoint. [End Page 101]

Jennifer Atkinson

inline graphicJennifer Atkinson is the author of four collections of poetry. The most recent, Canticle of the Night Path, won Free Verse’s New Measure Prize in 2012. Poems have appeared in journals including Field, Image, Witness, New American Writing, Poecology, Terrain and Cincinnati Review. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs at George Mason University.

The Understory

The sycamore doesn’t lean riverward.It leans toward the light over the river,Shading an understory beneath its green,Daunting the aster, guarding the fern,Cooling the water alongside, watersOne week raucous with parking-lot runoff,The next nearly stagnant. Slow or quick,The current undercuts the sycamore’s bank,Leaves gravel trapped around its roots.

And the sycamore leans further, tippedLike an open drawbridge. Already

It’s picked up the river’s accent,That slurred drawl, those schwa-flat vowels.It’s falling into the rhythm, acceptingThe ethic of onwardness. Only we will missThe leaning tree when it finally falls.Its birds will choose another to light on,Deer will take its downed leaves,Asters will star in the light of its absence.Though ferns will parch, fish will profit.

And the river will flow under,Over, forward, around its trunk, almost as before. [End Page 102]

Jennifer Atkinson

inline graphicJennifer Atkinson is the author of four collections of poetry. The most recent, Canticle of the Night Path, won Free Verse’s New Measure Prize in 2012. Poems have appeared in journals including Field, Image, Witness, New American Writing, Poecology, Terrain and Cincinnati Review. She teaches in the MFA and BFA programs...


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