"Soldier" and other poems

by Oksana Lutsyshyna

Translated from the Ukrainian by Dmytro Kyyan

1.

SOLDIER

it seems they sleep on the ground, in the ground
he gets out of the ground in the morning
to say some words
but he forgot the words because they are too long
so, instead of words he has numbers
one two three one two three

one – this is the addressing
God, Virgin Mary and all the saints
seraphims and cherubims and all the twelve apostles

two – this is a request – help and save and rescue from this gehenna
give the strengths
give so that all could return home, that we could be waited for at home
so that all could return home safely as it may have been forgotten to say

and three – this is a word for which there are no categories
this is a word like the number one
it’s when they finally coincided
this is not addressing, not prayers, this is just a word
– God, God –
God, whether You are in my chest or You are behind it

he gets seated by the tree, leans with his back on its trunk
closes the eyes and counts – one two three one two three
as if dancing the waltz
the ground in pits will soon be one pit
and there will be no place to hide

– God, God – 

Whether You are in my chest or You are behind it   

2.

***

…then someone comes and says – now, it is going to be
your face
your body
and you say – good

there are only two or three maps in the world
that you can’t look at
the maps of towns
of which the very names of the streets make you want to scream
because these are your names
that are not written in any of the documents
these are your names
that are called by those who loved you

and the face – it is not a problem
it can be endured
it is not really the love that tears the chest apart


it is the love only that can not be endured

3.

***   


they did all they could and painted
these cheekbones with the tonal crème, squeezed
water from them like from the heavy linen that they wash by hands
boil in a tub in a tiny kitchen – 
because even in the party headquarters buildings, kitchens are always small –
carry in the buckets outdoors and to the palisades
tie a rope between the old trees

…squeezed from them the water of agonies
water of longing
drew you a smile
circled the eyes with solid pearls

…hard as the linen in winter
stiff, embroidered with ice needles
that had to be broken with fingers despite the ice-pain
and to pull the sheet of canvas diagonally
while the frozen ice was suffocating from the pain and
screamed, screamed

…don’t you scream that way with your eyes from the photographs
splashing the black fire into the space
as if you want to defrost the thought:
we are measured out with only the childhood
solid white quadrangle
magic carpet

4.

generation facebook

his wife writes to him – return
return faster wherever you are
you are not among the captured
not among killed

but you are somewhere
maybe,  you are hiding in the enemy town
but you will get out of there
return, return faster

she writes and everyone reads
everyone reads and no one can do anything
reads about her hope and his death
reads and cannot do anything

what do we remember after this war?
that we shared the pain but he never shared?
or shared
like a candle, with a flame having set the screens on fire
shared but could not diminish. 

5.

***

God, make up something
God, connect the separated ones
I will not be able to do it myself
no meditations help
God, maybe, You are an invention
of the (semi)western world
but wherever I go – I am facing You
and whatever I asked for – I ask You
God, I made mistakes everywhere
reached neither faith nor light
nor equilibrium   

only hope
smaller than a mustard seed  

6.

*** 

every year we get more dear to each other:
enemies, friends, occasional companions – 
all our small and big habits
small and big quarrels
- with every year
- with every step
acquire a different status

the white powder flies in the classroom
the smell of chalk and the sun
with years, something that no longer exists becomes sacred
and happiness is – that it was
and so you hold on to the invisible
you need it as a thread
that leads you out of the labyrinth – 
go, do not be afraid of anything –
neither life of a stone that is longer than yours
nor life of a river

because in fact all direct lines are parallel –
and all intersect with you

7.

BEAST

I am a night beast, a beast that cries
for another beast
because every beast cries for another beast
for his warm hair and the sounds of his body
and this is such an inevitable symphony
that can not be translated into the language of music
the language of tongue
but only into the language of pilgrimage:
and so we go, the kingdom of the beasts
powerful as reincarnated gods
striped and horrific
so that to burst out crying to the sky itself
so that to ask the stars, all together

and each individually: did the land really run out?

Caitlyn Garcia