The Children of Chernobyl

By Mary Crescenzo

Pripyat – Spring, 1986

A mother tells her daughter, “Hurry, it’s time
for school. Your brother is ready to go.”

“Brother, did you see the trucks watering the streets?
“Sister, keep walking, we will be late.”

The teacher gives the day’s lesson:
“Stay indoors when you return home.

Seal the windows. Change your clothes.
Take these pills. Don’t panic.”

An office decides, “Let’s not evacuate them,
let’s avoid panic.” Three days pass before

the children are removed to a pioneering camp
on the Black Sea converted into a holding station.

Parents receive assurances that all is normal,
but the children’s blood tests are abnormal.

Children romp and play on the grass
waiting to go home to nowhere.