Poems for Ukraine 17/03/22
Poems for UkrainePoets have always responded to war by writing poetry — it’s what we do. Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on 24th February this year people started sending The Friday Poem their poems about the war — poems about resistance, poems of protest, and poems about specific individuals affected by the fighting. These are stories of courage, grief and hope. We have decided to publish some every week. Slava Ukraini!
In the Slips by Pratibha Castle
The Innkeeper of Kyiv by Christopher James
In the Slips
While the world watches
Violetta, clad in years
the measure of a week,
journeys from Odessa
with her doll and cat
and a Grandmother
her face a crumpled map
of lifetime drills
framed by a scarf
the colour of losing
urges a boy soldier
put this flower in your pocket
hopes his flesh
rotted into trampled mud
bone and blood
a claggy womb
will birth a crop
of smiling sunflowers
and men in black
as if spectators
at a cricket match
watch a tank
grizzle over cobblestones
across the city square
while a man
sprints into its path
scoops up a hand- grenade
at a pile of rubble
dangling from his lip
a red-eyed fuse
The Innkeeper of Kyiv
I will keep open the doors to my bar
on Khreschatyk Street, and leave the lid
unscrewed on the horilka. While Kyiv shakes,
I’ll let its bottle-light of honey and amber fall
across the page of Segodnya that tells
the story of how our world has changed.
This is where our heroes dream; where they
drink with the ghosts of those that came before:
the ones who fought the night of the long fire,
or rode to Kaffa, where the land meets the sea.
I will press a glass into the hand of any man
or woman who still calls themselves free.
What hopes, what hands, what hearts have
been won in this place? I’ll fetch the phonograph
from the back room and play loud the songs
of Bilash; Dva Kolyory will fill our hearts again.
We have genius to spare. But let me be
the first to drink to the god that ordained
a man from Ukraine should invent the helicopter,
those damselflies of steel and death.
Igor Sikorsky how could you have known?
Let them take wing back to the rivers of Russia.
And Mihkail Gruschevsky, where are you tonight?
I’ve left a place by the window, with pen
and ink, and paper enough for you to write
the next chapter of our history. For once, and I
do not say this lightly, I will even allow poems
to be read, with a glass, spilling over, for anyone
who can summon the words of Taras Shevchenko:
‘Such is our glory, sad and plain,
The glory of our own Ukraine!’