Issue 18: Aidan Semmens


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

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