Saturday, October 29, 2016
The Sunday Poet: Gary Fincke
Gary Fincke's latest collection is Brining Back the Bones: New and Selected Poems (2016, Stephen F. Austin University). His next book will be The Killer's Dog, which won the 2015 Elixir Press Fiction Prize and will appear early next year. He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.
The Chernobyl Swallows
In April, near the anniversary
Of catastrophe, barn swallows returned,
Flying inside the exclusion zone to
Nest in the radioactive ruins.
Like disciples, the swaddled scientists
Marveled. The work crews, weeks later, toasted
The newly hatched, especially the fledged
With albino feathers after they soared
Like their siblings, devouring insects
With the ravenous hunger of swallows.
For months, the left-behind celebrated
How weak the worst was, and when the swallows,
No exceptions, flew southward, how feeble
Apocalypse could be. But come spring, not
One of the white-flecked birds returned, only
The ordinary nesting and spawning
Their own mutations. Families, by then,
Had moved back to where the world was quiet
And uncrowded, reclaiming rooms inside
The official radius of poison.
And through succeeding springs, no flight with white
Above them, just guards and squatters were left
To praise what they took for heroism,
Even if only among the swallows.