Elephant Slide in the Exclusion Zone
After David McMillan’s photograph, Pripyat, Ukraine, October 2002.

To forgive
can sometimes mean to think
of them as a child: a wisped head
turned in a wheaten basket. Soft fists.
A bumblebee in a foxglove flower.

Out walking, my son pointed, said glove-fox corrected, glove-box.
The young buzzing slip of words.
The first seeding questions in the dark
about dying.

Each careful step
on an iron ladder up
to the height of an animal comrade’s back
would be a magnificent circus act
under a sun-striped tent of maple branches

a tight-chested pause
between its huge Futurist ears
and then the slide, fast
down the stretched scooping trunk —
a mural of air, block and sky in a second.

Abandoned minder
of layering leaves,
the corroded elephant in the exclusion zone
is the colour of broken crows’ eggs.
A single corvid mother checks the silence
with her Geiger-counted call,

Laura Wainwright @wainwrightlj was born in Cardiff and lives in Newport, south Wales. She is author of a book of literary criticism, New Territories in Modernism: Anglophone Welsh Writing 1939-1945 (University of Wales Press, 2018). She was shortlisted in the Bridport Prize poetry competition in 2013. Her poetry has been published in Black Bough Poetry, Wales Haiku Journal and Picaroon Poetry (Nov 2019).

Banner image “Never Forget” by Robert Frede Kenter (a manipulation and transposition of a photo-work by David McMillan. Tweets at @frede_kenter.