Thursday, January 19, 2023


Here is Light; it's too hot to touch
but don't remove your fingers.
~Nadya Agafonova

Poems this week from INVASION: Ukrainian Poems about the War, edited by Tony Kitt, translated from Ukrainian by Anatoly Kudryavitsky. Nadya Agafonova, the poet who wrote the above quote, was killed by a Russian rocket.

The Journey
by Anatoly Dnistroviy

I'm no Odysseus
my disturbed wanderings are confined to my room
and sirens don't sing to us nightly
only alarms to which we no longer respond
neither kids
nor cats
but a long journey awaits us all--
a journey to find our homes
in the darkness of doubt
and my home summons me
like a ray of light


by Sophia Lenartovych

the tree cuts the lantern light in two
paving a radiant track towards my feet
the train will arrive in a few minutes
but I still don't know where I am going
mother bade farewell to me and said:
home is where somebody's waiting for you
so I'm now travelling on a toy train
that moves along the bright rails towards her


by Julia Musakovska

such awkward, terrible poems
soaked with rage,

no beauty in them,
no aesthetics;
metaphors withered and scattered
deprived of blooming

metaphors buried
on playgrounds
under hastily made

in unnatural poses
across the thresholds,
strewn with dust

cooking food over an open fire
in attempt to survive

metaphors dying of dehydration
under the rubble

shot in a car
under a makeshift
white flag

lying on the footpath
with motley backpacks on their backs

next to their
executed pets

forgive me, but such poems
are all we have for you today,
ladies and gentlemen,

dear estimable spectators
in the theatre of war

Yale professor Timothy Snyder says:
There is nothing problematic or awkward about the poem itself. It is elegant and powerful. It reminds us how metaphors work. The awkwardness and the frightfulness resides not in the poem, but in us. The poem helps us own this. What are we supposed to do, we the spectators of the theater of war?

...The way to relieve the sense of awkwardness is to do something to help. In this horrible war of atrocity, the Ukrainians have made this easy for us. This is not a conflict where it is unclear whom to help or how. Both the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian civil society are highly functional, which means that it is quite simple to do something more than spectate.

If you want to help Ukrainians stay warm despite the Russian campaign to take down their entire power grid with missiles and drones, make a (tax-deductible) donation to Razom. If you want to support Ukrainian aims through President Zelens’kyi’s own platform, United 24, you can do so here...If you want to support Ukrainians who are at work in the arts, sciences, and in journalism to document this war, make a (tax-deductible) contribution to Documenting Ukraine.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Marcie!


Kay said...

Tabatha, thank you for sharing these stark, heartbreaking poems. It is too easy for us (or at least me) to turn my eyes away. Not only can I look and not turn away, I can find ways to help.

Linda B said...

When I read these words of sorrow, I feel as if my small donations are not enough. Thanks for seeking out these poems, Tabatha. I will look for more.

Ruth said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing this intense vision of life as it is right now.

Janice Scully said...

Such horror and such need we are witnessing! Thanks for sharing these voices from the war. We all need to hear them.

Margaret Simon said...

Such a sad tone in these poems. Thanks for sharing them and helping us see the poetic side of war.

Linda Mitchell said...

Thank you, Tabatha. Sometimes, the most important work I can do is bear witness when I'd rather not. I have such a difficult time managing my feelings about the state of our world with day to day details. Sometimes, I just need to sit with a poem and let it do some of the work with me. These poems do that.

Mary Lee said...


laurasalas said...

Wow.These are both stunning and a gut punch...and I feel slightly guilty for seeing beauty in the portrayal of the terrible violence. The words are both a blade cutting its way to reveal the violence up-close and personal, and also somehow a way to distance myself from it. I'll be thinking about these more. Thanks, Tabatha.

jama said...

Thanks for sharing these. Soon the Russian invasion will be a year old. It is good -- though painful and sad -- to hear the voices of the people who are experiencing this travesty.

Karen Edmisten said...

"The awkwardness and the frightfulness resides not in the poem, but in us." Wow, yes. My paltry donations seem paltry but we can keep trying to help, yes?

Susan T. said...

These are heartbreaking and very moving. Thank you for telling us about the anthology, Tabatha.

Patricia Franz said...

oof...I'm trying not to just spectate. Thank you for sharing the poems, for reminding me that I need to feel their heartbreak and act on the desperation, not just read about it.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thank you, Tabatha, for frankly sharing these voices that need to be heard. Appreciations for the donation links, too. Like Karen, I appreciated the commentary, too, especially the quote she noted.

Michelle Kogan said...

I value and appreciate all you gathered here for us to read, contemplate, and act on, Tabatha, and I wish there was some way we could help more to make it stop!

Carol Varsalona said...

Tabatha, these poems are deep-seated reminders that there is much sorrow in the world that we do not think of except while listening to the news.

It is hard to imagine the uprooting of lives. These lines resonant with me:
a journey to find our homes
in the darkness of doubt