Sandra Benedetto: Yea, Though I Walk Through The Valley of A Nuclear Wasteland

Our ground zero isn’t death,
but rather a preoccupation with all the ways it can mutate a life.
We walk towards it, always towards it,
stepping over rusty twigs on a carpet of dried out needles.
If we get too close, we won’t combust.
Not for us, such a crisp and conclusive bang.
We inch like glow worms to the toxic center,
where we will wait till our irradiated cells deflate from inactivity.

It’s not that sickness doesn’t permeate the woods,
but the cloven hoofed animals know enough to go on living.
The boar may be no good for hunting and the eagle’s egg is thin,
but they wallow and nest just the same.
Why then, are we tracking afflictions like bloodhounds?
We root around for fallout because we can’t help ourselves.
If it’s there, we must know, we have to know,
because being taken off guard would be the true disaster.

What a waste, a contamination of our brains.
We are not too tired yet to understand this.
We curse ourselves for choosing gamma ray stars to guide our path,
but all the same we cannot look away.
The real burn is that fear has no half-life,
unless you consider that exposure can halve your blooming life.
It permeates, pervades, resides in damaging,
if not quite lethal, ways.

We cover ground and call it progress,
but like atoms fusing
there is no redemption in the inevitable devastation.

I’d like to turn around, my friends.
I’d like to make it back to where at least shrapnel reflects the sun
and poisoned water gives the illusion of running clear.
I don’t want to detect destructive doses —
deflected or absorbed, it doesn’t matter.
We will die, but not walking towards that blighted landscape of our minds.
We will never escape the exclusion zone,
but somewhere behind us the soil allows for life
and new undergrowth beckons.



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