Pripyat/Moscow ( 1986)

IRMA KISS-BARATH

My hands stayed crimped for

months, bracing for another wave. 

 

No medicine for that, only

wickedness, cool and contained:

Rippling in foreign suits and

leather shoes, such as 

are impossible to come by. 

Pity the nation, 

 

our fire blooming 

outwards like a smile. The cars

that came to freight us out

rusted in our laps. They

were blue,

 

the color of my nightgown 

when he left. He was summoned,

the receiver 

plucking him from bed—

that he left willing. 

 

The town pillowed underneath

the burning plant. It exhaled 

 

onto all those outside,

the women; children; animals

sparkling like candy. I stayed in

the flat, but it did not matter

much. Loving the compound

made no difference. 

 

What better bookend

for a marriage 

than this: the buildings

The hospital smelled sweet

at first, like a drying fruit

rind—but the bodies soured

quickly. 

 

Sunday morning and I could not touch

him without pain. 

 

Skin came off when I lifted his 

one sheet,

that held him firm to the 

bedframe 

like a shoebill’s 

mouth.

 

Patches bloomed all over him, 

his whole body swelling 

like a rising loaf. His corpse

was barefoot at the funeral, feet too

bloated to be dressed.

 

Three months later, 

the baby was born. 

 

Natashenka

 

Her liver, rising,

had twenty-eight

roentgen.

Her heart soon opened

like a wet butterfly. She 

      inhaled only 

four

hours,

             sloughing the naked pink self, 

falling, finally, 

like so much lead

Irma Kiss-Barath is a high school student from Vancouver, BC, where she was born to Hungarian immigrants. Her work has appeared in wide-eyed magazine and The Blue Marble Review and has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and 1455 Literary Arts. She is an Adroit Summer Program mentee in the 2020 cycle.

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