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Meltdown

Greg Nicholl
 

In the movies, a meltdown is marked by an alarm,
red lights flashing as a woman’s voice instructs residents 
to make their way to the nearest exit. Always a woman’s voice.
Soothing, polite, as if inviting the infected to leave, making it
their choice. Sometimes a catastrophe is phosphorescent liquid
that leaks from a reactor into sand causing ants to centuple in size; 
sometimes it is less fictional. To suppress dust, a town in Missouri 
doused dirt roads with a mixture of oil and dioxin. The homes
evacuated too late, hazmat crews deployed to bury everything,
support beams and light fixtures, each asbestos shingle.
Drawers ransacked for anything left behind, underwear and bibles
cast into a pit then concealed beneath a mound of dirt.
Twenty years later ferns sprout from the hill, kudzu snaking around
maple and oak, their roots plunging deep into the sludge below.
But in Table Rock, soil is inert. A Clorox bottle that falls
from the back of a U-Haul is not enough to invoke sirens or
the woman’s composed cadence warning intruders of contamination.​

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