an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

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Tarot #01

The Ukrainian Poets as Seen from New Plymouth

This poem has venom in the ink.
On the 28th of February, oafish Russians invaded
the old motherland of the Kyivan Rus
with missile bombardments and a tyrant’s impudence.
I thought first
of Serhiy Zhadan, asleep at home in Kharkiv
a blood-smattered copy of Mesopotamia in the rubble.
Memoir, travelogue, timely or untimely meditation
—or a mixture of all four,
the struggle of this generation
for democracy, and in our own epoch, for life itself.
                        Or the elfin face of Oksana Zabuzhko
                        weathered by daily heart-break
                        without tanks, a treasured copy of
                        Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, is just a novel,
                        but it will defend you and Kyiv, long I pray
                        as we watch the daily atrocities
                        with growing fury and impotent rage
                        as patriots stand before the altars of death
                        like the insurgent Ukrainian armies
                        written out of Soviet historiography,
                        just as in The Museum of Abandoned Secrets.
                        This time we see you and stand with you!
Myroslav Laiuk knows a wonderful word: vozdukh.*
The Russians want to take it away from him
because—they say—it was theirs so long ago
that it’s already foreign:
            He says: we’re inhaling words and parts of words
            “voz”… “voz”… “voz” …
            it transforms into letters.

The air is redolent with courage and unspeakable deaths.
                        Halyna Kruk, sits her office at the University of Lviv
                                    a sea of humanity flowing like an undammed torrent to Poland
                         in the age of helicopter-gunships strafing civilian trains
                         your 2005 Oblychchia poza svitlynoju/The Face beyond the Photograph
                         just haunts me now, your iridescent eyes glisten from the dust jacket.
             Please don’t let them kill you, the whole of Taranaki should be
             demanding
             Please rush to safety, Ukraine will need storytellers
                                                and I admire your eyes as much as your lines,
                                                                                    dorohyy.**

Notes:
* Hard to translate as the word has gone out of usage in Ukrainian, but “the joy of air” is a reasonable approximation.
** A term of endearment like ‘dear’ or ‘cherished one’.