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.