And the Rain it Raineth

AND THE RAIN IT RAINETH

I

When Mt.St. Helens went up it was–

well, it was just a mess.  Waves of mud

scoured the Toutle River until it looked

like a sewer.  Thousands of acres of timber

were stripped and leveled by the blast

like cordwood, like matchsticks.  Spirit Lake

was relocated and Harry Truman and some others

just flat out disappeared.  The mountain ripped itself

wide open, and its once graceful and rising line

scrunched into a gaping, steaming wound.  And over it all

the ash cloud swarmed and pillared and billowed up until

the upper winds caught it and carried it off

to the east.  Then the ash rained down for days,

blotting out the sun, sifting through the cracks and jams,

choking carburetors.  You could hardly get rid of it

but had to shovel it off the roof, scrape it off the grass,

wash it on down the street, a kind of grey slime

that left a film everywhere.  What a mess.

We thought we’d never see the end of it.

You can’t tell now, though, except around the mountain,

and the ash did a good job of fertilizing

the vegetables and the flowers.

II

In Chernobyl the roof of a building is gone.

In its depths the carbon burns and burns

but little else is known.  There are reports

of workers playing soccer nearby.  There are

reports.  There are satellite photographs.  There

isn’t much to see.  It is not like Hiroshima.

Not like Bhopal.  And one is thankful.  But

the progeny of Number Four is invisible, unfelt.

It rises on clear winds bound ’round the world.

The reporters are reassuring.  It happened

in another country and besides . . .

After the news, after dinner we go out

and water our lawns and watch the sky

as the sun drops.  It seems the same.

Another day it is raining because it is still spring.

From my window I watch the iris budding in the yard

as the clouds cover the mountain, and the world

is smaller, closed in.  Even the news seems to come

from another country.  It would be easy to forget.

It was said before but this time it is true–

the world is changed, changed utterly.

We are all downwind from Chernobyl.

(previously published in “80 on the 80’s: A Decade’s History in Verse,” edited by Robert McGovern and Joan Baranow, The Ashland Poetry Press, Ashland, Ohio, 1990)

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