What is time?

Fair01

The last few days have been quite amazing for me. I’ve been overwhelmed by the attention my Chernobyl photo essay received, after Krista, an editor at WordPress, selected it for the Discover section.

Naturally, when we write or share photographs (or both, in this case) we do it because we believe it’s a story worth telling. But I never envisaged that my story would reach so many people around the world.

However, the most satisfying aspect for me has been the wonderful discussion that followed. So many of you shared your own recollections of that day, 30 years ago. It is fascinating to see how major events such as Chernobyl are seared into our minds and remain vivid, even after three decades.

One contribution in particular stopped me in my tracks. Jeni Bate, from Skyscapes for the Soul, was inspired to write a poem after seeing the photos of the abandoned amusement park in Pripyat. It’s such a beautiful, moving poem, I felt it deserved to be more widely read, so I hope Jeni won’t mind me giving it a post of it’s own:

What is time?

Soon, they said. Soon.

We were all assembled, parts carefully honed
miles away
travelling on the backs of
other machines
brought by the people
built by the people
to bring joy to the people,
soon, they said, soon
we will have the May Day celebrations.

The ferris wheel and carousels
lovingly built
tested, fed with electricity
spun empty,
they work just fine
working the way the people wanted
working the way the people would enjoy
the people would have fun
we would bring them fun,
soon, they said soon.

The bumper cars
were driven in circles
oiled and lubed
attached to their ceiling;
the cupcake carousel
has seats added to the cupcakes
yellow to match the ferris wheel
the bumper cars
the swings
they would swing on the swings,
bump the cars,
soon, they said soon.

People walked by
watching the workers who were building us
looking forward to the fun,
soon, they said, soon.

Then the feeling.
The odd vibrations
shuddering every molecule of our metal parts
the people did not see
the people did not feel
what was the feeling?
Would it end soon?

Then the people all went away
but surely they will return
we are waiting here
through the summers and the winters
while the trees die and regrow
while the snow falls and melts
while the wind blows and knocks things over
while the dust gathers
surely the people will come back soon.

Eventually a few come and look
but now we are rusty and need care
will they oil us
before they have fun?
They are not playing with us
they brought other kinds of toys
they wore covering suits
they must be getting ready for the fun
soon, they said soon.

Now a few people come
a bus at a time
they look around, take photos
but they do not have fun.
Others come to measure and plan
to build something else
maybe the new thing
is the main attraction
we are happy to be sideshows
we want to have fun with the people
swing them round and up and down.
Soon.

We hear them talk that the feeling
will be entirely gone away
in twenty five thousand years.
Then they will come back?
we will wait
How long is that time?
What is time?
Twenty five thousand years.
Is that soon?

11 thoughts

  1. You have made me feel such that I now wish I could give them a warm hug to thaw away all snow and their anxieties, to kiss them and fulfill their wish to have fun with people and finally whisper to them that twenty five thousand years just ended!

    Liked by 1 person

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