my father smells of the forest— slight rot of tree root, streams as they melt   over rock & limb.   when I was little, I’d press my face   into his work shirt, perch my feet   on top of his. we’d waddle around the kitchen like that, a balance   stable enough to linger on the scent of the woods. I’ve heard people say   the sky was uranium-blue   after the meltdown. it must have been beautiful— all that color,   leaking into Ukraine.   the peace of that moment, how radiation seep   into a town while it sleeps.   makes me think of my father, asleep on the living room couch, & I have so much love for him then— his hands pressed   under his cheek, the day coming off of him in waves. like I’m watching the power plant when it’s not burning— all those gamma rays   resting, contained.   asleep, he’s that drowsy peace, that 12-am shift. that silence that came from the scientists’ footsteps, letting their echoes blend with machinery.   just below, atoms  splitting, energy created, & somewhere, half the world   groaning. my father has the potential energy   to burn down. catastrophic, when he does. but I like to think that his moments   are far in between. I must have known,   even at five, there was a risk   of radiation. that sick scent   of soured wood.   even so, kids don’t want   to call their home
  anything but safe. some,   even when Chernobyl   finally rose, refused to evacuate.