sirens filled the air

police cars with flashing blue lights

at the end of the crescent

Heart in mouth…

I’m through the door. Home.

‘What’s polonium’? my daughter asks

I’m puzzled …taking the paper from her

-scan in rising panic

snippets of words like ‘not a danger’

‘radiation not a threat’ and ‘far enough away’

I turn on the news

-mouth agape – I see and hear

a neighbour’s been poisoned

(via a cup of tea)

he is a father

I don’t know his son

he is a husband

I’ve never spoken to his wife

he is a neighbour

yet invisible to me


he was a Russian spy

oh dear!

©Vivian Zems

Real Toads- Physics with Bjorn- Radiation

Poetry Pantry#409

Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and KGB, who fled from court prosecution in Russia and received political asylum in the United Kingdom. I had no idea he was our neighbour.

We only became aware of his existence when police flooded our street (early November 2006). It didn’t help when we then spotted a white tent by Litvinenko’s front door and more people in hazmat suits. The police told us that the traces of polonium in our neighbourhood were ‘negligible’.

He’d lived a quiet life on our street…and we’d known nothing about his existence- until he named his murderer from his public deathbed on national television.