"The small, poisoned houses
I've discovered in your iris,"
The optometrist says, "once boasted myriad colors,
But are now stained black from radiation.
Some of the elderly, against regulations,
Have returned to their homes, despite
The threat of mutation and cancer,
The caesium, the deteriorating reactor.
Maybe they are not crazy.
The Chernobyl area is perhaps the richest
Wildlife preserve in eastern Europe
Because of man's evacuation:
The grass flourishes high as your chin,
The berries heavy on the bough,
The fish huge. Lynx and eagle owls
Have moved in. Wild boar abound,
But they feed dangerously
On radioactive nuts and mushrooms.
Wolves have overwhelmed the area,
And many pines turned crimson overnight
The evening of the disaster.
They stand like frozen fires in space.
They call this place the Magic Forest.
But I'm sorry to report there's no known cure,
No explanation. Your iris has burned ochre." .
Matt Schumacher lives in Union, Oregon.