Ukraine Memories. a poem by Lauren Friesen

Lauren Friesen

Ukraine Memories 

My ancestors walked here
Among trees heavy with apples,
Plums, and cherries
Carrying baskets year in and out
For canning or asleep on screens
To dry for winter’s tastes.

My ancestors worked here
Along trenches filled with water
Pleasure rafts and fish
Conjuring new life 
From deep soils rich 
In food for the soul. 

My ancestors loved here
Amid strife and endless wars
Promulgated by empires 
Conditioned to preying
On the hearts and lives
Of ancestors who toiled here. 

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Lauren Friesen‘s poems have appeared in Dark Waters (University of Washington), Poetry Nippon, Mississippi Valley Review, Arena, and Madrona Review. He has two collections of poems “Prairie Songs”, and “The Fallow Field.” He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for excellence in university theatre. 

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Don’t Look Away. a poem by Michael Schein

Michael Schein

Don’t Look Away

Putin tracks the value of the ruble
a barrel of crude
then ruble then crude
his thin lips wet with drool.

Here is the bread line in Chernihiv, simple human hunger strafed
by Putin’s pawns, & the mother of three warming soup for her children
when shrapnel tears out her throat. Putin LOOK, as her children were forced to look.
Lash the beast to the mast of humanity. Make it see what it has wrought.	

Putin, horror movie supervillain, sits
at the head of a long table of boot-lickers
barking orders barking mad
at Europe who flicks her skirt and shivers.

The youngest corpse still has the umbilicus attached …
	the mother, pelvis shattered by a missile aimed at the maternity hospital
	cries “kill me now” to save the baby who cannot be saved.
	Putin, is this what you mean by denazification?

Vladamir searches Volodymyr
curses the comedian who revealed the mighty He
to be a scared little shit riding shirtless 
on the wild horse of history.	

	Look: there’s an old woodcarver laid in the street under a blue tarp,
	shelter from a nation’s tears. There’s someone’s lover 
	legs neatly bound with yellow ribbon, left by the cratered street
	where in summer she grew watermelons.

Hollowed with hunger, Putin
licks his spittle, searches Stalin
but there’s no longer any signal
just a dark ocean swimming with monsters.

Don’t look away: there’s 16-year-old Iliya
whose legs were blown off
while playing football at school,
now stacked with her friends in a mass grave.

Putin wipes blood
from his bloodless hands,
fingernails scraping the chalkboard of
missile-scoured playgrounds.

	There’s the Mariupol Theatre, CHILDREN in Russian blazed in front & back
big enough for bomber pilots to read. Where Romeo kissed Juliet, 
choirs sang songs of peace, scared children cried, were told you are safe now …
wiped their tears, hugged their stuffed bears & died.

Putin your wife is gone your mistress fears you
your tanks are charred & frozen
alone
you wander frigid Russia

land of icy mirrors
nuclear silos, leaking dread
a long-suffering history of
history herself forbidden. 

Putin look: here’s 18-month-old Kirill
	fatal shrapnel wound to the head
	& a 6-year-old in unicorn jammies, dead.
	What lies do you tell your children, safe in a Swiss Chalet?

Putin in bed with the dead
while the living whose mouths he sealed shut
cannot sleep, cannot wake
from his terror, his haunted vision,

his insatiable cruel
ambition.

Lash the beast to the mast of humanity.
Make it see what it has wrought.

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Michael Schein wrote Liquid Perishable Hazardous (2019) (poetry), John Surratt: The Lincoln Assassin Who Got Away (2015) (historical), The Killer Poet’s Guide to Immortality by AB Bard (2012) (hysterical), & historical novels Bones Beneath Our Feet (2011) & Just Deceits (2005). Schein edited Poets UNiTE! The LiTFUSE Anthology (2015). His poetry appears in many journals & has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. Schein is the founder of LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop (litfuse.us), & has taught at Port Townsend Writers Conference, Write on the Sound, & elsewhere. Spirits inhabit earth & sky. Poetry is everywhere. Write on! michaelschein.com

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2 poems for Ukraine. by Janice Kulyk Keefer

Janice Kulyk Keefer

Skala

The village where my mother, her mother,
her mother's mother, were born
is no good to me.

The house where my mother was born,
the thatched house pierced
by the branch of a walnut tree:

torched in the war. Most of the village
was levelled, then—the remains
of my mother's childhood—church, schoolhouse,

cemetery—hold out no hands to me. I crave those
old-fashioned books of outlined images:water brushed
across the page, colours sprung from invisibility.

Skala lies to the north of my mother's village,
on the same river, the Zbruch, once the border
between Poland and Soviet Ukraine. Skala

has the ruins of a castle or fortress—it's hard
to tell which—and a street of shops, a market place
and a scattering of ancient houses along treed paths.

Corrugated tin in place of thatch, exposed wires.
Patchings of grimy cement the shade of asbestos:
regulation ugliness of the workers' paradise--

but what arrests me now is this strut of blue:
iron gates painted turquoise,|
the sleepy azure of stucco'd walls

and concrete windowsills. A slash of acid-blue
jilting fresh whitewash and, steeped in aqua tears,
the slats of wooden fences.

Stranded in Skala I would not last|
an hour: here for the weekend, a guest
on a guided tour of someone else's past,

I could stay forever. Everything
enchants me: grapevines smothering
chain link fences, improvised shutters

on a window stuck in a brick wall starved of mortar.
Shutters made of hoardings from a tailor's shop:
painted jacket, sketch of a fur-collared coat.

Kalyna grows wild along the roads of Skala.
In autumn's damp, mild air, women wear floral dresses
over sweaters and trousers, powder-blue plastic mules

or else men's shoes to navigate the mud. Geraniums pile
like refugees behind window glass, downspouts
overflow with tin flowers and prinked edging—like

the market vendor in her fog-grey jacket, lodged
between poles of onion, cabbage; lighting
the chrysanthemum's yellow fuse.





A Bellini in Kyiv

1.Provenance

Bellinis belong in Venice,
or any other western-European habitat.
Are no oddity in Manhattan, or in any of the insanely
endowed Gettys in Miami or L. A. But what
miracle brought this Bellini to Ukraine; lodged it
in a Renaissance-style palazzo built
on syndicates, peasant sweat and sugar beets?
From the Urals to the Caucasus,
Petersbourg to Tashkent:
an empire of sweet tooths. And at the root,
Kyiv’s sugar barons, among them
the Khanenkos (Bohdan and Varvara)
with tastes beyond Worth or Savile Row.
Zurbaran, Velazquez,
Guardi, Bellini: crated and shipped
from Adriatic to Aegean; through
the Dardanelles, then north
to the Black Sea coast. Rowdy stevedores
loading crates marked fragile onto barges,
past the Dnipro’s rapids all the way to Kyiv.

Palazzo still smelling of sawdust and putty,
each window swagged with velvet heavy
as a baby elephant. Up a rainforest’s worth of stairs,
the servants tote them: a still life, an Infanta,
the Grand Canal, and a stern Madonna
with her sleepstruck son.

2. God and His Mother

Refugees, owning nothing
but the clothes on her back, the cushion
under his head. Banished
from a city built on salt to one
propped up by sugar. Kidnap victims, or even
slaves, you might say, dragged off
from the auction block.
Naked under a gauze of holiness:
the blindly sumptuous sleep
of a well-fed child. She holds him
the way you’d grasp a precious, borrowed thing:
too huge to carry, too delicate to drop. Behind them
crimson curtain, sword-edged mountains, storm-slashed sky.

 3. Damage
Imagine the Khanenkos
on winter afternoons in the snow-hushed house
conjuring Venice from gold-pricked
blue, or the splurge of spotless linen
round the Virgin’s face; trying to read
the future from fictive battlements round a
phantasmal city clinging to the mountains,
from the warmth of a child’s bare skin.
A world war, a revolution, a death.
In her husband’s memory, Varvara,
forced from her palazzo to the lodgings
of her maid, gives forty years of art-collecting
to the city of Kyiv in the new Ukrainian SSR.
Bitterness of loss feeds the cracks halving
the Virgin’s eye; splits her elbow. Wood, like faith
being prone to warp, and all too often flame-consigned.

4. mirabile dictu

Though its owners die, the palazzo remains:
a cloth of honour, backdrop
for the puzzle of this homebound stray.
No commissar flogged it abroad,
no prankster drew moustaches on it
in an Atheists’ Museum.
No gallery director or attendant, starving
on the Occupation’s sawdust bread
bartered it for horseflesh; no looters
molested it, no Nazi connoisseur
packed it off to Dresden or Berlin.
Still housed in Kyiv--that reborn nest
of oligarchs, some of them
sugar barons, still--this refugee Bellini.
The Khanenko’s palazzo still a museum, studded
with babushka’d dragons guarding the trance
of this child, this mother.  Trance 
of witnessing; withstanding;
embodying beauty scarred, yet undefaced.

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Janice Kulyk Keefer was born in Toronto in 1952, to Ukrainian immigrant parents. Among her publications on Ukrainian topics are two novels, The Green Library and The Ladies’ Lending Library, and a family memoir, Honey and Ashes. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Guelph, where she taught for many years in the fields of English and Creative Writing.

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3 poems for Ukraine. by Carol Hamilton

Carol Hamilton

Heritages

I believe Dostoyevsky never had 
a grandmother to tell him fabulous tales
of the past as did Fuentes, Allende, 
those of rich heritage. What flashed
through his mind awaiting
the firing squad's fake bullets? 
during his father's beatings?
He lived the past he wrote us,
as did Tolstoy. And what will
our grandchildren tell of our times?
Children!  May I …
	Please  …
       text you a story? 
 




The Artists' Skies

Did Picasso care? I think not,
nor front and center for Renoir.
But this morning I look at
the agitated heavens by Van Gogh
in his later days, swirly, squiggly
clouds and nailclip of moon,
wild motion echoed on earth, think of 
the Winslow Homer Sea stormscape
still on my walls, though in a back room,
the one we ordered when grad school newlyweds
with 25 cents and a Gleem toothpaste box top,
or the Georgia O'Keeffe in the living room
of a stark blue, cut with a sliver of raven wings,
painted on the day that Stieglitz died.

Here on the prairie, we own wide expanses
of this that is rationed and dear
to city life, brag of our brilliant, 
dust-filled sunsets, so few things
ours to own. Two friends, one 
of Armenian heritage, the other Polish,
have mailed me sketches, preliminary 
squares of watercolor or oils over the years,
John's from a Cleveland garage apartment
filled with works stacked and hung
everywhere, and Jurek's Scotland skies
near or over the North Sea, skies
so full of many things. On my desk,
(a TV tray, really… do they still make
such things?) I found a stray scrap
John sent when still alive, 
and I knew his heart that day.

Do even we, no brushes or paint pots
at hand, fill space, the sky that holds
our small worlds together, pinions us
in place with what has filled our hearts,
tell the world of our wonders?
I say to myself that I must try.





Vigils
"I answered you in the secret place of thunder"
				Psalms 81:7

I have best known thunder heard from my tent 
or coming from an open window of childhood,
chasing its own voice off, off,
smaller and smaller to some distant
place of its disappearing, perhaps in a thicket 
of full-leafed summer bushes,
they deaf to its shaken but dying airs…
or in through a girl's raised window,
she alive with the full longings of youth.
But are any of us waiting and listening now?
Oh, there are always the deep night dreams
of youths' delusions and there is always
a world full of those praying for an answer
to come from those long hours
of our silent watches through the night. 

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Carol Hamilton has retired from teaching 2nd grade through graduate school in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma, from storytelling and volunteer medical translating. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 19 books and chapbooks: children’s novels, legends and poetry. She has been nominated ten times for a Pushcart Prize. She has won a Southwest Book Award, Oklahoma Book Award, David Ray Poetry Prize, Byline Magazine literary awards in both short story and poetry, Warren Keith Poetry Award, Pegasus Award and a Chiron Review Chapbook Award.

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War Crimes. a poem by Lisa Reynolds

Lisa Reynolds 1

WAR CRIMES

After discovery of Mass grave of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine
(Source: CNN, April 4, 2022)


Deny, deny, deny

That’s what he does,
Tells others to do

But bodies are unearthed
Bagged, tagged - in daylight

No tents, no screens
No deception, no deceit

War is war is war
Crime is crime is crime

The two should never meet

Yet here we see
All he has unleashed 

There is no undoing 
WAR CRIMES

Evidence will speak
For the dead

Ukraine will speak
For the dead

And those mourning,
Will soldier on

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Lisa Reynolds is Canadian writer of poetry and short stories, holding degrees from York University. Her works are published internationally in anthologies, literary journals, and magazines. Publication credits include those by Anti-Heroin Chic, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Pure in Heart Stories Literary Magazine, Pure Slush Books, Ravens Quoth Press, Sledgehammer Lit, Spillwords, Sweetycat Press, The Wild Word (Berlin), Valiant Scribe, and WordCity Literary Journal, among many others. Translations of her poetry are scheduled for release in 2022. She is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society, the Writing Community of Durham Region, and an associate member of The League of Canadian Poets. She lives in a waterfront community east of Toronto, Ontario.

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2 poems for Ukraine. by Gordon Phinn

GordonPhinnPhoto

The Family Man
 
Wars come and go
As do the politicos
Who sell them to the public
Under pressure from the generals
 
And the bankers beneath them.
You keep your sons clear,
Steer your daughters to safety
As the budgets for destruction
 
Outstrip all their critics.  You
Learn that life unfolds
According to some pattern
You can’t quite explain
 
But can easily discern
In those drink fueled discussions
That deepen the discursive evening.
Finding safe harbors for your family
 
In the turbulence of time
Is about all you can manage
Until pensions pave the way
For wistful wanderings abroad
 
And the respites of regret
Between them.  And here comes the
Grave, not a moment too soon, the
Gallant rescue from relentless desire.
 
Oh let me sleep till I wake, and a
Family needs another man
To make ends meet in some middle.
 




The Political Man 
 
Heads of state often pretend
To have their heads up their ass
As a clown act can often keep
The masses amused, while the
 
Adroitly unannounced burrows
To its apogee while peeling
Plums for the applicants
Licking its waste.  Tents full of
 
Mishaps are trucked around
For photo ops that can outshine
The shabby hollows of refugees
Hiding from History as heinous
 
Has its way.  And believe me, I’m
Not parsing the herb garden
When I say there are bribes
In the affairs of men.  And yes,
 
Now that you ask, I shall stay
On message even if the content
Is poison.

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Gordon Phinn has been writing and publishing in a number of genres and formats since 1975, and through a great deal of change and growth in CanLit.  Canada’s literary field has gone from the nationalist birth pangs of ’65 – ’75 to its full blooming of the 80s and 90s, and it is currently coping as well as it can with the immediacy and proliferation of digital exposure and all the financial trials that come with it. Phinn’s own reactions was to open himself to the practices of blogging and videoblogging, and he now considers himself something of an old hand. His Youtube podcast, GordsPoetryShow, has just reached its 78th edition, and his my blog “anotherwordofgord” at WordPress continues to attract subscribers.

Phinn’s book output is split between literary titles, most recently, The Poet Stuart, Bowering and McFadden, and It’s All About Me. His metaphysical expression includes You Are History, The Word of Gord On The Meaning Of Life.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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3 poems for Ukraine. by Adrienne Stevenson

Adrienne Stevenson (1)

Sisters, 1906
inspired by the painting "Carousel", by Olexandr Murashko (Ukraine) 1906 

the day before our trip to Odesa
that day of endings and beginnings
my sister and I went to the fair
dressed in our best shawls
long skirts flowing over backs
of wooden steeds, the carousel
would remain when we had left
but we would leave no trace

the day before we boarded the ship
to bring us to the new land
we visited the stalls selling
food we were sure to miss
borscht, holubtsi, varenyky
even if beets, cabbage and potatoes
were abundant there
they would not taste the same

the day before we left our home
cradling pysanky—fragile mementos
we spent one final day
in traditional costume
in the new land we would try
to blend in, go unnoticed
be accepted despite our difference
take on new identities

now it is the next day
we have arrived at the docks
passage booked, papers in hand
will our daughters, and theirs
thank us for taking the journey
for becoming something other
or will they cling to remnants
of the lives they imagine for us?

…never dreaming that many days hence
in a new century, their cousins may face
the same stark choice to leave their homes.




 
Taking Dictation

the decree came down today
imposing new laws to govern
thought, word, deed
our behaviour constricted
by populist tirade
we must conform
to an illogical ideology
the threats against disobedience
are real, life and death
anyone could hang
if the balance tips
madness and hate hold
too many minds
weapons in the hands
of the hateful, wield
horrific power, support
edicts imposed on the unwary
by the unknowing

must we take this dictation?
we, worms of the earth
can in our multitude
turn against the traps
tunnel in opposite directions
march in harmony, consent
to cooperate, pass judgment
on domestic terrorists
restore society to a norm
that rules against assumed rank
and deposes illegitimate tyrants




 
Grand Cycle

Propaganda enfolds us with words,
calling itself news.
Which lies to believe;
what pictures trust;
where find truth?
Senses fuddled; thought rebels
—we prefer silence.

Hatred buries hope.
Gap in understanding
opens a chasm;
entombs lost dreams.

Well into the second half,
outcome still uncertain,
players shift positions.
Onlookers scrutinize, criticize
—who's keeping score?

Mind numb with repetition,
thoughts that dominate
day and night
—doors open;
wheels turn;
wars end—
I still think of you.

Appeared previously on http://www.poetsagainstthewar.org 2003, site now archived

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Adrienne Stevenson is a Canadian living in Ottawa, Ontario. A retired forensic scientist and Pushcart-nominated poet, when not writing, she tends a large garden. Her poetry has appeared in more than thirty print and online publications in Canada, the USA, the UK, and Australia, most recently in Poetry for Ukraine, Lifespan vol. 4 Work, Glebe Report, The BeZine, MacroMicroCosm. Twitter @ajs4t

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What Will Be Remembered. a poem by The Reverend Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchesi

Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchesi

What Will Be Remembered

Sow the seeds that will sprout
And grow into fruit-breaking trees
While you’re alive.
For your works will define you
When this candle is put off.

For when you’re gone
And in that little box lie
In that lonely corner of the world
Your own little portion
Of the earth beneath,
Only your trees will speak for you.

Let your life be a blessing
A book that’ll never be discarded
On the topest shelf when you’re gone,
But a book to be read each day
For its sweetness
Its comforts.

Remember that goodness is better than wealth
For each one born in this world,
Takes nothing more than that piece of wood
That tiny wooden gift
The last gift from humanity
Only the deeds will be remembered,
When you’re gone
Shipped in that tiny wooden box
That last gift from mankind.

Culled from a funeral sermon February 25,2022

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The Reverend Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchesi is a seasoned and career Clergyman of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) with an enormous breath of experiences both at Parish and the administrative strata. He is currently the Presbytery Secretary for Mezam and serves as the Main Parish Pastor for Presbyterian Church Ntamulung Congregation. Rev Ngwa Hosea Ambe is an in-born humanitarian individual who does a lot of outreach humanitarian services to orphanages, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable persons within and outside his parish. Rev Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchisi is the author of the book; I Am Your Servant: Use Me Lord.  In this book, he has highlighted salient issues in the scope of leadership at all spheres, both for secular and ecclesiastical God-fearing leaders.

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In the Slips. a poem by Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle

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 Grandma 
her face a crumpled map 
of lifetime drills 
framed by a scarf 
the color of losing
urges a boy soldier 
put this flower in your pocket
 
hopes his flesh 
rotted into trampled mud
bone and blood
transmuted to 
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 
underarms it 
at a pile of rubble
the dog-end 
dangling from his lip 
a red-eyed fuse

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Pratibha Castle’s award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) was published February 2022. Her work appears in Agenda, HU, Blue Nib, IS&T, London Grip, OHC, Friday Poem, High Window, Lime Square Poets, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, WordCity Literary Journal and Dreich, amongst others. Highly commended and long-listed in a number of competitions, including The Bridport Prize and Welsh Poetry Competition, Sentinel Literary Journal, Brian Dempsey Memorial Award, Binsted Arts and Storytown. A regular reader for The Poetry Place, West Wilts Radio, she is featured on Home Stage: Meet the Poet.

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a poem for Ukraine by Reinhold Stipsits

Reinhold Stipsits-1

Spring paints without brush
Leaf buds blossom heart shaped
What a great lover

A Robin redbreast
In a flutter of spirits
Proudly presents hope

The Ides of March
Only cowslip bells ringing
Lay down your weapons

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Austrian, born in Lower Austria, Reinhold Stipsits spent most of his academic career as professor for social pedagogics at the University of Vienna. He was Visiting Scholar at the University of Texas in Austin, served as a reviewer of study programs in Lithuania, Croatia, Bosnia. He was fortunate to meet and work with distinguished people in the field of psychology such as Douglas A. Land, Carl R. Rogers and John M. Shlien. As author and as a person-centered psychotherapist he is committed to trust the process. Therein he considers himself as a tour guide into the amusement park of life. He pursues a goal to share experiences and encounters in all kinds of habitat. He writes poetry, mainly haiku, short stories and semi-fictional reportages.

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