by Karen Schubert
You may be surprised to know that these are real places, our tour guide said. You can find them on the map at the end of the tour. She handed us our radiation suits. Half of us went into Chernobyl, the other half into Hiroshima. We walked from the Before room to the After room, where our Geiger Counters clicked and wheedled. My mask was hard to see through, and it took me a while to realize there were no more people. The ambulances had left. I wanted to warn the dogs. It felt so real. The guide had never heard of Three Mile Island.
We stepped out of the suits and heard gunshots. What’s the difference between Gettysburg and Columbine? our guide asked. We ducked out of the way as students ran by with their hands up. Their fathers had been in Vietnam, so they knew what to do. The smoke cleared and we lay wreaths at white crosses, a single row like Arlington. We are still working on Iraq and Afghanistan, the guide said, and gestured toward the locked doors.
We went from Ruby Ridge to Waco. Jonestown was silent – no fire or gunshots, all the people in rows. The still fathers held their arms over the children. We could not see the Kool Aid on their faces. Most of us were crying, and the tour guide promised to cheer us up. We walked past Bataan and Auschwitz, all the way to Hollywood. We stayed in Hollywood for hours. We better be getting to Ground Zero, Broadway and Wall Street, called the tour guide. They are closing Lockerbie and Love Canal! But we just stayed in Hollywood, watching all those beautiful people pose for flashing cameras. One mother told us to get a good look. You can be anything you want, she said. We waved to the movie stars. They waved back.
Karen Schubert’s poetry and prose are forthcoming in Gently Read Literature, MUSE, Penguin Review, Artful Dodge and Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar 2012, and nominated for 2011 Best of the Web. Her chapbooks are Bring Down the Sky (Kattywompus, forthcoming) and The Geography of Lost Houses (Pudding House, 2008). She has an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts, teaches writing at YSU and Mill Creek Park, and blogs at karenschubert.blogspot.com.