Anne Elezabeth Pluto


Photo on 11-23-15 at 7.30 PM #2








Once more the day of remembrance draws near.

I see, I hear, I feel you:

          Anna Akhmatova                                                                             




From Requiem




For Sergei Brushko


Give me your glasses

then your eyes – a second sight

necessary to envision what I have

not lived – and that by mere chance

my mother confessed – god spoke to her

Go to America – where you were born.

My father – the war was his adventure

and me –the first generation of this family

escaped Chernobyl – but I must be the west

witness – lest we forget the complications

of modern life – of empire and heat of energy

and human frailty.  Sergei – even from the grave

your photos haunt and chronicle – the quick and

the dead – wake them all with your eyes

bring us not to commemoration, or to remembrance

but to action and diligence

bring us home.






Mikhail Gorbachev


I confess that we were afraid of panic,


The cold war seems incongruous

vestige of the past – demonstrated disaster

unique – no country can be prepared for every

eventuality – we must deploy the maximum effort

to prevent disasters.  Social ecological economic

consequences too heavy in every sense of the word

In the beginning there was the word and the word

Was god.  Responsibility enormous – politicians, scientists

engineers and designers – their mistakes cost the earth the life

and health of millions.

The victims continue to suffer, moral duty to help them

moral duty to help them while continuing to limit ecological

consequences of this disaster.


You waited three weeks – silence – Soviet motto – don’t seek advice

from abroad – but who would know just how to handle the heat – put out the fire

and put out the light – no one could have caused more damage to Russia

than the Russians themselves – now the day of remembrance draws near.

I see, I hear, I feel you.




Olexiy Breus


Former operator at Chernobly reactor number four

Now as journalist and artist


April 26 1986

I drank coffee

And got on the bus.

There had been an accident – power station visible

I saw

The destroyed

Unit – I understood

“hair standing on end.”


April 26

A mass grave

Why had they brought me there – to supply

Water to cool the reactor

Level 27

I did not know the precise

Level of radiation

Puddle was 800 micro-roentgen per second

1000 times greater

than the permitted

dose intensity

a mass grave.

I calculated

I worked

Two more days on

The third unit.

Then withdrawn

I was forbidden from working.

A mass grave.


Autumn 1986

All evacuated staff

Allotted flats in Kiev.

Vladimir’s city.

The Kievans were lucky

To lose them – a degree of hostility

Is not a mass grave.

No windows – floors open

Rain – there was

Radioactive fallout.


September 1986

My daughter

Born in Leningrad

I carefully check the flat

Before bringing

Her to Kiev.

I got

A radiation meter

The contamination was so high

That it went off the scale

This was not

An everyday

Domestic tool

It calculated for nuclear

Power stations.


Radiation found

The dirtiest place

Was the windowsill

Under the paint

They removed the paint

Others had it under

The wallpaper

The changed the wallpaper

They cleaned the walls.


You could call

The dosimetrist

From the housing department

They came

They saw

They measured

The situation

As a whole

The gamma background.



I cannot erase it

From my life.

It is in me forever

Nothing will wash it out.

It is not impressions

Not memories

It is more

It is deeper

It the deep

In the soul.




Oleg Ryazanov


Control room shift manager

Chernobyl nuclear power station reactors 1 and 2


I didn’t work here

when the accident occurred.

I worked

at a different

nuclear power station.

I was taking my baby


to my mother-in-law

near Odessa.

At first I did


believe them.


I moved

to Chernobyl

because the package

offer was good

more pay

bigger flat,

but I did have

some concerns –

was it the best

place for my daughter.

This was outweighed

by other factors.


I earn about

4,000 hryvnia/month

$800 quite high

in Ukraine

a very good salary.


My job

is to keep the reactor

under control

to keep the water cooling

system running

to monitor

the spent fuel tanks.

A chain reaction is


because this reactor

contains fuel – come September

the license runs out

they plan it to remove

the fuel by then.


Soon, my job

will cease to exist.

I can only do this job.


is preparing to build

new reactors

this will take a long time

the political situation

is unstable.

The next government

could drop

the idea.


I don’t rule

out going to work

abroad – people have

gone to China and Iran.

I would not go

to Iran

but China

is a possibility.





Igor Komissarenko


Professor Igor Vasilevich Komissarenko

Surgeon, Institute of Endocrinology, Kiev


Great accuracy is needed

when operating

on the thyroid gland.

You must not harm

the major nerves

in the neck

or the parathyroid gland.

We remove

the whole thyroid gland

in cases

of thyroid cancer.


This is when the cancer

is growing in more than one place

about three – and – a half – or four years

after the accident

mostly among children.

The closer to the source

to the Chernobyl region

the more cases of cancer.

The further

the fewer.

The children

were affected most

they were growing

they breathed it in

they drank it in milk.


In 1991, 1992, 1993

we reached a plateau.

50 cases a year.  Then

in 2003

the number of cases

among children declined


The increase in cases

of thyroid cancer among adults

began after five years

and increased sharply after

10 years.  Diagnostics have improved.

Now it is rare to find

children with big

cancer and lots of

metastases , but it still

happens with adults.


Today, twenty years later

the number of child

patients is one-and-one half

or two times higher

than before the accident.

This is due to other

sources of pollution.

The ecological situation

is generally bad.  Iodine was not

the only isotope

thrown out

by Chernobyl.


It will end

when this generation

passes away.




Lena and Anya Kostuchenko


Lena Kosuchenko, 39 and her daughter Anya, 19.

Chernobyl zone evacuees in Kiev.


I was five months’ pregnant when the accident occurred.

My husband and I were spending

the weekend at my mother’s hosue in Kopachi,

a village just south of the power station.

We woke up Saturday morning

decided to go Chernobyl,

it is the nearest town

to buy maternity clothes.


At the bus stop we saw many fire engines and troop

carriers on the main road – we waited and waited

no bus came – a policeman told us there would be

no buses – there had been an accident.  There had been

small accidents before, so we did not worry.  We worked

in the garden

all day Sunday I had to go

and work in Pripyat again

there were no buses – we set off

on foot – I began to feel very ill

my husband helped me home

then walked to Pripyat alone.


He got back, the town had been evacuated

I was out of bed – outside a policeman

finally told me the truth.

There was high radiation and pregnant women

should get out at all costs.

I did not even know what radiation was.


We drove to Ivanki

two days later I was

in the hospital doctors threw away

my clothes and decontaminated me

in a cold shower there were many

pregnant women there the doctors

said we would all have abortions

or induced births – they did

some abortions quickly then changed

their mind and we would give birth

after all we went to Chop then to Mykolaylev

near the Black Sea.  In each new town

I threw away my clothes – they were contaminated

by my own radioactive body.


Anya was born

two months early – she was big

a five and a half pound baby

with unformed nails and colored yellow

incubated – I was not allowed

to see her for eight days.  Later in Kiev

specialists hospitalized her

on sight – you could not then

say it was on account of Chernobyl.

It could be anything

except Chernobyl much later

a hematology professor told me

I had been very unlucky

I was in the wrong place

at the wrong time.


Anya is my houseplant.

She has a very rare

blood disease and almost no

immunity in 2004 she caught

meningitis and was in a coma

for three days – it was told it was all over

But she rose like Christ from the bed.


In the 1990s a law was passed

promising benefits to Chernobyl

invalids, but nothing to children

invalids.  Together with other parents

I formed Flowers in the Wormwood

We successfully lobbied for the law

to be changed.


There exists

the tendency to play down

the problem

of Chernobyl

if possible

to forget it.


The 20th anniversary has passed

I think

the state

will begin

to withdraw

its support.




Hanna Semenenko, age 78


Resident of Chernobyl zone village, Ilyintsi.

Evacuated to Yahotin, 160k away, but went back.


Oh God

how they tricked us!

They said – they were

taking us away for

three days

and they took us

to the end of the earth.

To the authorities

we handed over our lives

cows, calves, pigs.

We left everything

behind, we took nothing

with us

but our souls.


I spent the winter

in Yahotin

came back here

in the spring.

There was nothing in Yahotin

but steepe

Here we have rivers and forests.

So many of our

young died there.


I wouldn’t go back.

I would rather die.


My brother

lived here.

In the first years

after the accident

his daughter married

had a child, a boy

as healthy

as an oak – they lived here

what kind of radiation

do you call that?


Officials, they come, they check

us  – check our food

our clothes.

There is nowhere

As clean as here!


They deceived us

drove people

to the ends of the earth

out of sight.

Where is the radiation?

In Yahotin

the levels were higher.

They took us.

36 people in the village

we have electricity, thank God

I get water nearby,

we grow potatoes

cabbages and tomatoes

and mobile shops

visit us twice

a week –

people who live here

are old like me or older

there a couple who are

90 or more.


they may no longer

Be here.




October Requiem


For Anna Politkovskaya


A thousand souls

to see you

and carnations

their powdery scent

to fill the ugly space

and candles to light

the darkness – it is a congregation

of the astonished

those who knew you

and those who knew

your words.

Brave is hardly enough

to describe your actions.

You who have eaten the knowledge

of your death foretold.

You who have negotiated with gunmen

listened where no one else

dared to even speak

You who have written

what should not have been

acknowledged.  You who have taken

the plight of the ordinary

conscript against his commanding

officer – You who have said they are human

too in Chechnya.  And after all that

you loved your county

and its broken people

in the face of skewed

democracy.  Anna, I live

in the land of the free

and the home of the brave

but we don’t see the flag

draped coffins arrive – we don’t

see the mother, the wife, the lover,

the father, the brother, the son, the daughter

waiting to take that body home,

denied our national grief – it’s blood

for oil –God where he hardly belongs

divide and conquer – be still –

No one should die in vain.


When he came into the apartment

did you know

what did you feel

at that last moment

did you look at him

the hired assassin

and ask – have you come to shoot me?

or to fuck me?

It is the same

word in Russian

Did you beg for mercy?

Did you call out to the Mother of God?

Or did you stand there

and whisper

I have long been expecting you.


I won’t cover the mirrors

40 days you’ll wander the earth

come settle here – as you should

never die – be spirit to us all

instill your fearless heart among us

who take for granted what is

our birthright

the simple thing

the freedom

of our speech.




Bride Green


For Ahmad Shah Masoud


For you

there is a green

dome – a shrine

of a grave

site – the mountains

where you once were the lion

and escaped death invite

the strong and the damned

to visit – to leave a stone

to say a prayer

and to believe

God is

Most merciful

and compassionate.


A decade in your shadow

he lived – who planned

your death – a television

set – packed deep with

shrapnel and journalists

with fake Belgian


to ignite the bomb

and you wanted

the world you were

not a part of – to know

that you were good

followed the prophet.

on a horse

that took you

to heaven.


He is dead now

finally arrived

shot in the face

the chest – where

you too burned from

ignition – he was hiding

in the country you so

hated – where no one

could be

trusted = he is dead

taken quickly – betrayed

washed by his enemies

wrapped in a shroud

in a bag weighed down

with stones – verses read

from the Holy Book

The word of God

then dropped  into

the Arabian sea – engulfed

by the tide to sink

to sink

to be eaten by the fishes

not multiplying into loaves

no miracle – no trace

no bride green shrine

to hold his bones.


It is over.

It is over.




Jung in the hands of the Mujahideen



born on the eve of World War I

I live your conscience

daily reminders that

the world is a frightening place

you never dreamed as you spent

the Second World War traveling west

landscapes away from your home

that New York would be the site

of terrorist activities

on the day of your 50th

wedding anniversary

in the third millennium,

in your second century.


As a soldier,

you lived Central Asia,

traveled the Middle East

Byelorussian, in a British

uniform, having escaped death

in a soviet prison

the names of cities

roll off your tongue like Turkish

delight, now ruined

Beirut, beleaguered Damascus

starving Baghdad

mysterious Alexandria

and bleeding Jerusalem


I played store with your war

souvenir coins

turning over the bas relief of pyramids

and camels

my kingdom for a beggarly denier

I see the world is round

and hold it in my child’s hands

well traveled in your stories

I pray now that we can realign

against the evil

religion brings to the oppressed

that magi lift their hearts to god

and climb the mountains of Babel

holding words instead of weapons,

and as their voices reach


God hears the faithful ask forgiveness

for themselves and all of history.

amen and amen




Uneven Tele




The goddess reaches her

hand to her lord of the

dead husband – crowned

in the afterlife waiting

in the reflexive infinitive

mood – the eternity

of nothing moves in

this tomb – her uneven

telepathy brought his

severed pieces into divine

circumference and she

was able to raise the

Dead. This is the story

the one that plays on

diamond needles skipping

the scratched grooves in

prescient recordings – we

keep hearing the strains

of memorized music

in unquiet activity

resonated in humours

divine balance of our

sanguine melancholy

and phlegmatic bile bilious

formation of our own

uneven telepathy.












Anne Elezabeth Pluto grew up in Brooklyn, NY is a Russian immigrant family.  She is Professor of Literature and Theatre at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where she is the artistic director of the Oxford Street Players, the university’s Shakespeare troupe. She is an alumna of Shakespeare & Company.  She was a member of the Boston small press scene in the late 1980s. Her chapbook, The Frog Princess, was published by White Pine Press. Her e-book, Lubbock Electric, was published by Argotist ebooks in 2012 .Her latest work appears in, The Buffalo Evening NewsUnlikely StoriesEpisode IVMat Hat LitPirene’s Fountain, and The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.  She has been a member of Worcester Shakespeare Company since 2011.




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