Monday, February 28, 2022

War Language (Poem)

War Language

 . . . poetry is not merely a description of an event;
it is an event
~ Ilya Kaminsky*

The threat is not speaking
Russian but watching

the tanks lay down
rough tracks in Ukraine.

Already, they've chewed up
the borders of Kharkiv,

spit on the words
from the City of Poets.

Every bullet becomes another
man's eye, every mortar

one more crushing blow
to the head, no body

with the time to argue
one side before the other.

There are shoes in the streets
of Kharkiv, feet herding

to shelter, children in pink
snow suits handed off

to strangers for safekeeping,
the speech of goodbye tears

breaking the silence
that follows the shelling.

Occupied and occupier

cleave the meaning
of war in Kharkiv, 
break it down
into fragments of sound —

one, the whistles of rockets;
one, the louder testimony of loss.
* Epigraph quoted from and poem inspired by Ilya Kaminksy, "Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War", Literary Hub, February 28, 2022, as excerpted from Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine (Academic Studies Press, 2017), Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky, Eds.


1 comment:

Drew said...

This is an aching, beautiful poem.