This is not about the abuse

Jessie Leitzel

3 minute read

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.