Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне,
Подумаешь: она грозы желала…
–– Анна Ахматова
You will hear thunder and remember me,
and think: she wished for storms…
–– Anna Akhmatova
I stand at the Atlantic’s salted edge, sand and soil
far emptier than chernozem, the loam I come from
harvests enough wheat to last six months
of winter. Dear Ukraine, your earth hasn’t known
a thirst like this one since the frozen-hunger.
What right do I have to call for you
across the water? To metaphor you
in season and bloom. To mourn with you
the way my people do, whole bodies
wailing, tearing off our clothes, beating
the ground, our fists— mouths full of dirt—
inching closer to our dead.
I'm so far from your earth, your dead,
your suffering, you’re suffering, you are and I
am words but there are no contraction
in Ukrainian so let me break them here for you
my dear, dear Ukraine, though language isn’t
what you need, you are—ty ty ty—far
and I am far and we are far and this is not
enough. This salted page. Far and foreign. Still,
I reach for you, Ukraine—forgive my longing.
This expanse is nothing
but a singing wound.
Forgive its music as you burn and bleed and I drive
my children to daycare and sob in my car
then go on with the day while you tug and tear
at me, Ukraine—thorn, anchor, stone, seed.
My people put stones on graves to weigh
the body to the earth while the spirit rises.
I'll scatter seeds and seeds for you.
Take shelter here, Ukraine, if only
in this insufficient song and soil, in this
unworthy body, if only for a moment, take
shelter here. Your sunflowers will rise
across the water, sonyashnyky, in your own tongue,
fields and fields, ablaze.
Dear Ukraine, they’ll burn
anyone who dares to cut them down.