Poetry for Ukraine

Ukraine’s national flag and national flower — sunflower

Our theme for submissions in March relates to the disaster for the Ukrainian people and government resulting from Russia’s invasion. The feature was extended at the end of March and submissions closed on 15 April.

Thank you to all who have submitted, whether published or not. There have been so many good and original poems to choose from. Some very good poems we couldn’t choose covered ground that had already been well covered in poems already published.

Poems published in this feature are by Aldona Kapacinskaiteaudio symbol 2, Allison Herman, Andrew McFarlane, Andy Klunder, Ann Jay, Annie Ellis, Bernice Baker, Chris Hemingway, Christine Griffin, Christopher Cuninghame, Clair Chilvers, David Dephy, David R Mellor, Derek Healy, Dorinda MacDowell, Eamon Carr, Frank Sharratt, Gail Webb, George Moore, Gillie Robicaudio symbol 2 audio symbol 2  audio symbol 2 , Iris Anne Lewisaudio symbol 2 , Isobel Shirlaw, Ivantiy Novak, Jane Spray, Kate Copeland, K.S. Moore, Linda M. Crate, Liz Carew, Marilyn Timms, Mark Mansfield, Martin Rieser, Nicola Thomas, Nigel Hastilow, Peter Isaacson, Peter McCluskey, Phillip H Simmons, Radice Lebewsu, Ricardo Purnell, Richard Smith, Robbie Martzen, Robert Rayner, Roger Kirkpatrick, Sara Burnett, Sharon Webster, Simon Monaghan, Sue Norton, Susie Wilson, Trevor Valentine, Vicky Hampton, Wendy Webb, William Wood

audio symbol 2 indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet.

Radice Lebewsu

Radice is a poet of Ukraine. This tennos draws from Neoclassical Ukrainian Modernist poet Mykola Zerov (1890-1937) who was executed by the Russian Communists for his poetry.

Ky’iv in a Winter Evening

With reason, guides have praised its beauty and its treasured gifts,
blue waters, green ravines, and blinding landscaped drops and lifts.
Alas, barbarian-destroying hermocopides
are using missiles on the architecture of Ky’iv.
Now scenes of devastation follow streets with spitefulness,
tanks, drunk with power, roll into the city’s frightful mess.
And in the eve of night upon this very anguished hour,
old chestnut trees without their leaves are languishing and dour. 
The rubble and the fires have left a horrid string of scars,
yet still it stands, though overcast and emptying of cars.

Sunflowers will grow again

I
the most devastating assault
indiscriminate use of force
a night of heavy shelling
transforming peaceful cities into military targets

Rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

 
II
a Russian missile struck her home
the house completely destroyed
she thanked a guardian Angel
for saving her life
hands and woollen scarf caked in blood
I never thought this would truly happen in this lifetime
my God, I am not ready to die
weeping by the body of his father
the twisted wreckage of a car
a 13 year old killed in the attack

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.


III
I will do everything for Ukraine
with as much strength as I have
as long as we are alive we will fight
refuse to lay down arms
in the face of certain death
democracy cannot defend itself
I will be only for my motherland
never will I submit
it is better to die

Together they will be like warriors in battle
trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
They will fight because the Lord is with them,
and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame
.

IV
You are occupants. You are fascists.
Offer them sunflower seeds
put them in your pocket
sunflowers will grow again

Coda: Times newspaper coverage 26 February 2022. Psalm 144;11. Micah 7;8. Zechariah 10;5.

David Dephy

David is a Georgian/American award-winning poet. Named as A Literature Luminary by Bowery Poetry, The Stellar Poet by Voices of Poetry, The Incomparable Poet by Statorec, A Brilliant Grace by Headline Poetry & Press and An Extremely Unique Poetic Voice by Cultural Daily. He lives and works in New York.

https://artisticfreedominitiative.org/artists/david-dephy/

Divine Ukraine

Your eyes are the eyes of God.
Your breath is mother tongue of Earth.
Your blood is a symphony of fire.
Your lips are the truth-tellers,
no one can take your golden mystery,
no one can feel you without admiration.
Your heart is garden of kisses.
Your ears are pearls of expectation.
Your words are constellations –
the faces of heroes, encircled by rays,
drifted on the minds of the world,
their smile, their look, their strength and its innocence,
a tide that tugs at us. In times like these,
a sense washes over us, and we gather together
in the deadly noise of millennium and this stillness,
a stillness that never wavers.
All we have become, divine Ukraine,
is what your innocence has made of us.
The naked homeland of freedom
beats right in your heart.

Waiting

Kyiv
Kharkiv
Kherson
 
A pain
too deep
for tears
 
Sunflower seeds
deep underground
preparing to flower
 
Invasion
 
It took three cities
to hold her family.
Mother
Father
Brother
Grandfather
Husband
and infant daughter.
 
Now,
she cradles them all
within a single tear.

Chris Cuninghame

Christopher lives in London and has written poetry for much of his life. He has published only a little  – mostly in small-circulation magazines, remote corners of websites and, occasionally, through on stage performance. All this adds to the great enjoyment he gets from writing.

Awakening

Eyes opened like a letter that doesn’t need to be read;
before the ripped mouth of the envelope, it’s been said.
A weight of overheated air inside; the certainties of rain
dropping outside, another curtain over the two-ply pane;
eyes knew what rested on them, flicker-taped beneath,
outran the yelps of broadcast news, saw with their teeth.

London, 24 February 2022

Bernice Baker

Bernice is a writer based in the Cotswolds. She publishes poetry online under a pseudonym, having reignited her passion for writing after taking a break when she had children.

Steps

These steps, burdened
With unthinkable load;
Heavy, weary,
Crimson tears
Overflowing,
Longing to
Smile without fear.
These steps
Do leave marks
Forevermore,
Of deepest
Compassion, most
Unfaltering and pure,
Despite their most unthinkable load.

David R Mellor

David is from Liverpool, England. He spent his late teen homeless in Merseyside He found understanding and belief through words, and his work has been aired widely, at the BBC, The Tate, galleries and pubs and everything in between. Discover more about David on his Facebook Page YouTube Twitter

The Sirens Ringing Out

The sirens are ringing out
Did I wake up to 1939?

Bits of paper waved in the air
As a bomb rips through a house

“we’ll hit them in their bank accounts”
But no statement can save a child’s life

The sirens ringing out
Wailing across a Kyiv square

A mother in Donetsk a sister in Odesa
A cold chill running down her spine

“It’s hopeless”
It’s happening again

The sirens are ringing
And it’s not 1939, it’s here and now

And from the west
A thick cloud of hot air, saving nobody.


Mourning…

I wake up to coffee
My failing eye sight
Classical music  gently calming down
The beats of the coming day

My cat encircles me
Wanting food
And then with trepidation
I turn on the news

They are waking up to
An underground shelter
Darkness all around them

Hearing in the distance
The slow thunder of tanks

And the loss of their lives

In the Silence

The cars outside my window
Rumble to and from places
Without a care in the world

The children scream out Mehmet’s name
To come out to play
And when he does
Their little faces light up 

In Mariupol there is just silence
A bird sarcastically chirps
A dog sniffs round
But there is nothing to eat

The rumble of tanks has gone
The screams have died down
Rockets lighting up the sky have faded

Christine Griffin

After a career in teaching, Christine returned to her first love – writing, particularly poetry and short stories. Christine is widely published including in Acumen, Snakeskin, The Dawntreader, Graffiti Magazine, Poetry Super Highway and Writing Magazine. She has performed her work at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

500 pieces

Deep beneath St Michael’s monastery
Mariya sorts the pieces
while hell rages above.
She stacks wobbly piles—
sky, clouds, the meandering Dnieper,
golden domes, marble pillars,
lush splendour of parks in spring.

First the frame, corner- clipped
holding fragments of the city
safe within its boundaries.

Under her patient fingers
buildings rise from muddled heaps.
Stately Saint Sophia, the grand Parliament,
glorious monuments—Rodina Mat, Babi Yar.
Flowers come alive in the botanical gardens,
people arm in arm stroll
along Khreshchatyk, nodding to neighbours.

500 pieces.
That’s what it says on the box.
 
She frowns, sees the gap,
searches the filthy floor
for the missing pieces
dropped in the shelter’s chaos.

Not 500 pieces after all.

481…
… and tattered fragments clinging
to the Parliament’s stark flagpole.

Andy Klunder

Andy is a visual artist based in the UK with East European heritage who finds some things can only be expressed in words.

Vladimir Goes to the Circus (Kill Me Now)

Take a seat at the circus, the rest of the world is here.
Your status as an onlooker is luxurious to say the least,
although you seem to be strangely frozen in your seat.
You should prepare yourself for a spectacular show,
see the ghostly clowns in the circus ring, Grozny, Aleppo,
and more you know, so don’t say you weren’t forewarned.
My good friends war and strife arrived early at the ring and
reserved the best seat for me. They knew my mind at the
outset and prepared the ground for us three.
But if you know what’s good for you you’ll kill me now
and learn to suck-up the consequent pain,
I’ll only start to grimace and growl and lose all sense
of proportion, denying what I might have been,
and when I start to get aggressive, as I surely will,
I’ll lash out with flailing fist and vicious kick,
piling up the bricks to throw at anyone who dares,
pulling bombs from my back pocket and lobbing them
into the ring the very moment the lions quit their cage.
I have the capacity to allow such crimes on a massive scale,
murder at one remove is such a simple, abstract thing.
You may try to appease me to mitigate my rage
but I strongly advise you to heed my words,
and to kill me now before it’s too late,
before I make a desert of this once fertile place
and all you can do through gritted teeth
is to welcome it and call it peace.

K. S. Moore

K. S. Moore’s poetry has recently appeared in Arachne Press and Broken Sleep anthologies and in the journals: Skylight 47, The Honest Ulsterman and The Dawntreader. Commended in last year’s Single Poem Contest at Cheltenham Poetry Festival, K. S. Moore also placed third in The Waterford Poetry Prize (2020).

Website: ksmoore.com YouTube Channel: K. S. Moore Twitter, Facebook and Instagram: @ksmoorepoet

Retelling

Thick blasted air
makes clouds of division
despair is something we breathe.

It rises — this familiar
we are drawn in the great circumference,
tipped back from the globe’s stand.

We see all countries
we fear for all lives
because one blood march breeds another

and just because
it’s yellow and blue flags now
doesn’t mean our flags won’t fall

although we wave them so ferociously.

Linda M. Crate

Linda (she/her) is a Pennsylvanian writer who has been published in numerous publications both online and in print.  She has eight published chapbooks, the latest of which is:  Follow The Black Raven (Alien Buddha Publishing, July 2021).

wishing they would grow a heart

i keep praying and praying and praying,
feels hopeless;
prayers don’t break guns or disarm bombs—

yet it is all i can do from a world away,
watching and waiting and watching some more;

i have never have been thrust into the
midst of a war and i don’t
wish to be—

my heart breaks for the ukraine,
and i don’t know what to do;

so i pray some more before i lay my head
down to sleep, hoping for a miracle
i am not sure i believe in—

and these past two years have been hell on their
own,
and this isn’t helping with my exhaustion
or my anxiety;

i keep praying that something delivers us into
hands of peace—

free the ukraine, free them of this war; i tire of
all the senseless violence and all the senseless death and
i cry watching families torn apart by this war only to
have to listen to the laughter of people who don’t understand
making their jokes at the expense of those already suffering
wishing they would grow a heart and learn some empathy.

Peter Isaacson

Peter Isaacson is a laundryman and scarecrow who lives in the Inner Hebrides.
He writes poems because he fails to understand the world and songs to cheer himself up.

Blueberry Chill

I felt elated, in Sevastopol,
Oh Sevastopol, when I penetrated
Da West joost stend by, so what I get fine?
Now I tek nather bite, I push det line

I smart, funny and great, just like Russian ‘Riddler’,
Sudetenland, tirty eight? I not Adolf Hitler!

I longtime ruler, twenty-two years at top,
All opposition, I give him da chop, (ha ha my little joke)
Four terms as king pin, joost two more to go,
Den chenge da rules again, after det well who know?

What if we’re blown apart? Blown to smiddereens?
I’ll be your Bonaparte, ‘not tonight Josephine’ (dem I good!)

To da West who I hate, I sing ‘Blueberry Hill’
Does everyone lav me, are de mentally ill?
All Hollywood ectors stend up and applaud,
I knew I was genius, but now I am god! (demigod!)

I bare chest on horsebeck, I one hell of a man
You be my Borte, I your Ghengis Khen (etc. etc)

William Wood

William is a Cumbrian recluse, published author of poetry, prose and fiction.
more at williamwoodswords

Ukraine

The pen perhaps was once
Mightier than the sword
But men no longer fight
Hand to hand with swords.
They fire rockets from afar
At babies and the pregnant
Bomb hospitals and schools.
They pour down poison
On civilian populations
From their safe positions.

Words have lost the power
To turn them from this action,
Reveal to them the awful truth
Behind their cruel, deluded deeds.
The old vocabulary we use:
Revulsion, horror, shame, disgust
Anger, sorrow, rage and grief
Inadequate when the tyrant
Has no feelings other than
His bitter paranoia.

Those targeted by his forces
Suffer atrocity, their pleas
For help unanswered.
Our fearful, blinkered leaders
Hide behind pretence of
Giving diplomacy a chance
While the rest of us look on
Armed only with our keyboards
Impotent, frustrated, weeping
Lost indeed for words.

Kate Copeland

Kate’s love for words led her to teaching & translating; her love for art & water to poetry … with publications sealed alright! Find her poems@ Ekphrastic Review, First Lit.Review-East, Metaworker, New Feathers, Poetry Distillery a.o. Kate was born in Rotterdam 52 ages ago & adores her housesitter’s life.

We used to love the merry-go-round

The horses that brought music to life
The wind that brought scarfs to dance
Your arms that brought my heart to hum
A merry-go-lucky-go-round
And ’round, all night, these days
Of sun and joy and spun sugar
That behaved as Spring ever did
Around the red flowers
As a cloak ’round me
        But then –       now
                                the horses bring strangers to our life
                                and wind brings nothing to dance, for
                                arms make the heart stop, no more
                                merry-ness, lucky-dom, as domes fall
                                down, doom a fair-fairy day, now days
                                of smoke and oil and rank bread
                                that still crave for a Spring
                                around clear flowers, as far away
                                as this – ride

The kind of March

where dogs panting in parks
and scarves still a shield,
the kind
where sunflowers swayed around
with arms around my friend –
how did we know how
hands be tied, be cold,
be packing, and now
we kiss our men
goodbye
so, let us, me, paint you
the kind of sun
where no magic sounds
            where any sound a hell           
the kind
with the coldest Spring wind
that pushes around     
and away.

Andrew McFarlane

Andrew is a Civil Engineer by profession and very much a recreational poetry writer, with some work published (surprisingly, he says) in an anthology in Dec 2020 (‘Aya the Resilient’, part of the Adrinka series compiled by Dr Gameli Tordzro). He enjoys and spends a lot of time outdoors hillwalking, kayaking, running and cycling which is where he draws on the majority of inspiration and ideas.

War Memorial

I stand tall, stoically; in every city, town and village across the country: no matter how small or how remote

I have names carved into my skin, each one being more painful than the last
People lay flowers at my feet, the same type on the same day every year

I see people stand in front of me, some in support, some in opposition
Some paying respects, some grieving.
Some asking ‘why’, some asking ‘how’, trying to find answers and understanding
Some trying to find peace, some trying to find solace
Some try to deface and destroy me, some try to protect me and restore me

I am not expensive but I am invaluable and come at a cost, a great cost
A great cost to many, far beyond where my line of sight reaches

I stand not to glorify what has been done by the brave and misfortunate, those whose names and memories I keep alive

I stand as a symbol of sacrifice, a sacrifice that has taken something from every community and touched every family across the land in some way

I stand to remind people of what has been done before in the hopes that no more names will be agonisingly etched into me
In the hopes that the sacrifices made before came at too great a cost to repeat
In the hopes that we can learn from history

I stand hopeful, perhaps naively, sadly

Sharon Webster

Sharon lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. A doctor by trade, in recent years she has been able to indulge an earlier passion for writing, to date poetry and short stories.

Time for change

Today the sun will rise,
and we shall be shadows,
short and fat, lean and tall,
it will not matter.
There will be work and play,
eating and sleep, and love and hate,
and happiness and grief,
because there always is.
But it could be the day
the sun turns round,
the day the world begins
to spin another way,
the day a voice is heard,
“enough”
and shadows merge,
and make the
nonsense stop.
It’s in our hands.

What colour is the sky

“What colour is the sky?” you ask,
and I glance up,
reply “It’s blue.”
Then you include the fields and grass,
the forests, the tall mountain pass,
the oceans and the windswept dunes,
their colours seemed important too.
You asked me,
“Does the sun still rise?
Do other people wake and work,
and wash and eat,
and smile and laugh?”
I got it then,
how much you’d lost.

Trevor Valentine

The Russian title of Trevor’s lullaby means ‘Peace to the World’. He writes:
What is slightly heartening in this insanity, is that many of the ordinary Russian people are against the war, but are afraid to speak out. But we know they’re there.
As a footnote, my Russian is limited these days to hello, goodbye, thank you, violin and bellybutton. Some credit to Google Translate therefore.

A video of Trevor’s performance of his song is at https://www.facebook.com/sue.skinner.3998263/videos/3243589629208865/

мир мирy / The Last Soldier

Come inside now
Weary soldier
Put your gun down too
The fighting’s done now
You’re alone now
Come and talk this through
What did they tell you?
Liberation?
If only that were true
There’s no one left now
Weary soldier
It seems they lied to you
Be at ease now
Take your boots off
Pour a whisky too
Let’s talk about it
You’re the last one
And I’m the last one too
What have you done now
Weary soldier
It’s coming home to you
Did you believe them
Weary soldier
It’s not мир мирy
Come and rest now
Weary soldier
Close your eyes and dream
You’re in charge now
Weary soldier
However that may seem
You had a button
A big red button
We had a button too
Never wanted
To press that button
But what were we to do?
Build a world now
Weary soldier
It’s all that we can do
And maybe this time
We will make it
Make it ‘мир мирy’
Заходите
Усталый солдат
Опусти свой пулемет
Битва окончена
Ты один
Поговорите об этом
Что они сказали?
Освобождение?
Если бы правдой
Никого не осталось
Усталый солдат
Кажется, они солгали вам?
Будь в покое
Сними сапоги
Налей виски
Поговорите
ты последний
И я тоже последний
Что ты сделал
Усталый солдат
Кажется, ты понимаешь
Вы верили им
Усталый солдат
Это не мир мирy
Come and rest now
Weary soldier
Close your eyes and dream
And maybe this time
We will make it
Make it ‘мир мирy’.

Trevor Valentine, 15 Mar 2022


Richard Smith

Richard felt compelled to write this poem to express how he feels about this dreadful war and the person who started the war and what they are doing to a peaceful nation.

For Ukraine

Hitler, Putin, one and the same?
bombing and murdering
children of Ukraine.

Putin plays a dangerous hand.
Missiles and death
rain down on their land,

Putin alone, will carry this sin.
He murders his sisters,
brothers and kin,

Putin creates rivers of blood,
bodies of innocents
now lay in the mud.

Putin, alone, in his Kremlin tower,
a crazed madman
with genocide power.

Putin alone carries the blame,
and he alone
will carry the shame.

Uniting with people of Ukraine,
the world hears and feels
their anguish and pain.

Sara Burnett

Sara is the author of Seed Celestial, winner of the 2021 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize, forthcoming in fall 2022. Website: www.sararburnett.com

You Go to Sleep in the Dark

You go to sleep in the dark, and strange too,
you wake in the dark.

Overnight, two story deep craters pockmarked the earth. But they were far from you.
Houses collapsed like toothpicks. But they were not your own.
Like the straw houses you read in fairytales to children. But they were someone else’s children.

In the morning, bodies are picked from under rubble.
In the morning, a man wakes for the first time without his wife and children.

Your grandparents saw this.
Your children may see this.
Such is the world we’ve allowed to go to seed.

In the morning, you wash strawberries bought in a plastic crate, spoon yogurt into bowls.
You should be glad for bowls to fill. But how can this be?

By chance you are here and not there.
By chance you hold your son in your arms alive.
You would be happier perhaps to think otherwise.

To write about buds breaking open is almost a crime, because it implies,
as Brecht wrote silence about so many horrors. But there they are—
flashes of yellow and purple pushing through snow!

A miracle not that anything is born, but that it survives.

Overnight, bulbs burst brighter than stars in the sky. But the city burning is not your city.
And the fires smoldering bear no memories to you.

You wake up to a war on TV and in the afternoon, you turn it off.
Now far. Now closer.
Now coming. Now near.

While you think of what to make for dinner,
a woman crosses a border with her children clinging to her.
It is the type of border you may never see: the type that reads
“this is your life with war and this is your life with war, after.”

How luxurious to look away. The hospital hulled. The school shelled.
Or to imagine that your lot to imagine has power, though it does.
It’s why poems are written, why people gather and sing, or march in lines
stretching across streets and borders or ladle soup into bowls to fill
empty stomachs, comfort crying children.

We sing in the dark of the dark because as Merwin wrote dark though it is.

You are a stranger to this day’s light if every morning
like the family huddled in a bomb shelter you do not give thanks
for having made it through the night.

You go to sleep in the dark and it is still dark when you wake.
You who rent this body, these ribs, this breath
so may your own voice grow hoarse.



Frank Sharratt

Frank is an NHS Leadership Scheme Graduate and is working in Urgent and Emergency Care at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. He has been shortlisted in the inaugural Soldier’s Arts Academy International Poetry Competition with “The Defence of the Good Valiant Soldier”. He has achieved publication in Stepping to Eternity — Ekstasis Magazine, The Templeman Review Spring Issue 2022 with “Sonnet to the Thames” and in Dreich Magazine June 2022 collection for “On my shield” and “When my heart pounds”. He began writing poetry in the Summer of 2021 and is looking to build a first collection.

In Defence of Soldiers

I
Thankless tasks carried by nameless faces,
‘Neath the tarnished blood-soaked sacrificial banner,
Pray you never need Ravaging Aces!
 
Feet neither falter nor voices stammer,
Protecting ones who run away from light,
They have Zeus’ thunder and fight Thor’s hammer,
 
Cherish those who stand up in bloody night,
With eyes war-torn by a mangled vision,
Ancient or Modern still weapons ignite,
 
Tools cause true hurt in deadly precision,
Matters not, they travel through passing years,
Metal flew free to make an incision,
 
To the naive people, too weak to see,
Brave soldiers must pay the terrible fee!
 
II
Fear omnipotent evil in the dark!
You need our Ravaging Aces ready,
Due to the way the hounds of Hades bark,
 
Aces arise! Remake world’s so steady,
Unending tenacity, face their eyes,
Make the vanquishing, bring them to levy!
 
Break what kills grit: raise kindness they despise!
People so good and heartbreakingly kind,
We need our Aces or the Wicked rise!
 
Ravaging Aces guard our weak behind!
Silent, without want for glorious praise,
Lift heaven divine from mankind’s brave mind,
 
All must defend every noble soldier,
Courage upon us, like Atlas’ boulder!
 
III
As the pen and ink blow over topmast,
The tide of evil takes Ukraine once more,
Know our Aces have greater will to last,
 
Warriors of great tenets, known before,
Have risen like waves against what seemed lost,
They walk with us, fate written in our lore,
 
The battle and war was won at their cost,
Before books of creation, it ended,
When warriors made red blooded sun frost,
 
In all lives the spirit that raises high,
The defence of soldiers who never die!
 
Dulce et Decorum est: Pugnare Impius!


The flags are out

The flags are out
And yet what should we do
They line all our streets
Proudly on each avenue

The flags are out
Three children died
Mariupol turns to rubble
Yet have we really tried

The flags are out
The empty gestures too
Makes you feel better
What else can you do

The flags are out
The flags are out
The flags are out
Yet it is they
Who hold the redoubt

Victorious
Victorious
Freedom must be
The cause most glorious


Isobel Shirlaw

Isobel won the Fresher Prize for poetry in 2019, was highly commended in the 2019 Poetry Space competition and is currently writing a novel. She lives in the UK. You can follow her on Twitter @isobelshirlaw.

In The Playground

A battery
Of words
Without voices
On a Whatsapp group –
Of children
Playing hide and seek
And war

They’re too young
Their mothers cry
Holding tiny hands
Over ears
Closing eyes
Blocking fears
Protecting lies

Wires crossed
That’s all
No bombs
No screams
Just the silence
That falls
On unborn children
Like snow

Martin Rieser

Martin is a poet and visual artist, with interactive installations shown in Europe countries, China and the United States. He was published in Poetry Review, the Write to be Counted anthology, Magma Magazine 74, Morphrog 22; and Poetry kit. Martin was longlisted for Primers Volume 3; shortlisted 2019, longlisted 2021 for Frosted Fire Firsts; shortlisted for Charles Causley Poetry Prize and Artlyst Art to Poetry Anthology 2020; runner up in Norman Nicholson Lockdown Poetry 2020, and won first prize in the Hastings Literary Festival 2021 poetry competition. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.

Putin Topless with his mother 1958

The blonde boy is half-naked,
safe in the curve of his mother’s arm.
They sit in the shade of the dusty hedge
her flowery dress blending with the leaves.
She has a faraway smile.

He looks at the photographer
with trepidation, his hands clasped
tightly in his lap. Is he a friend
or his absent father back
from another submarine tour?
The boy is suspicious of strangers.

Nowadays, he often appears 
stripped to the waist, fishing,
or mounted on a horse,  
or plunging into ice water,
or striding through the jungle.

Is he still revelling
in his mother’s touch, her possession?
Little wonder that Pussy Riot
staged topless protests with
Putin written large across their breasts.

Ukraine 
March 2022

Tanks are bogged in mud,
fuel is low and frightened boys
sit by the roadside
cold and missing home.

The leader points to Kyiv
but the promised demons are missing–
only old peasants out
tending their gardens.

The boys’ hearts are not in it
but still they die –
a Kalashnikov has no idea
who is Russian and who is not.

Nigel Hastilow

Nigel is a journalist by trade. He has written a few novels (now working on one about the English civil war called The Man Who Invented the News. He’s written one poetry pamphlet, to zero acclaim, called High Water. See also www.halesowenpress.co.uk

Flight

I am at the porthole
On the starboard side
Watching the heavens
Sliding by.

The thin accumulation
Of cumulus,
White landscape
Bounded by blue.

Heading away from war
On holiday and free.
Extraordinary
Indignity.

Who are we to flee
The suffering and woe?
As if our presence
Would make it all go.

Insignificant, a nothing,
Self-centred and dumb,
Here we are running away,
Holiday-numb.

The sky spreads itself,
Blue on blue.
There is nothing, nothing, nothing,
Nothing I can do.

Derek Healy

Derek is a poet living in Malvern.  He has been published in a number of poetry journals in the UK and America.  His first collection Made Strange By Time appeared in 2018, followed by Home in 2020.   He hopes to publish a third collection later this year.

derekhealypoetry.co.uk

Liberators

The missiles launched unsparingly
undaringly
towards nurseries
and mortuaries
soon find a final resting place –
and yet their case
for brotherhood
does little good:
the ears that gladly might have heard
such friendly words
are past all fear
and cannot hear.

At a War Movie

Before the opening credits roll
a headline scroll
shows Kyiv free –
incredibly –
to host three valiant heads of state.
Not yet too late,
if nearly so,
for such a show
of statesmanship;  though common sense
and consequence
reserve these guests
the last train west.

Zelenskiy

Parliament applauds his address,
and who would guess
they never met
his plea for jets –
that bunkered down someplace unknown,
fearful, alone,
this is a war
he’ll perish for?
And when he’s gone the West perhaps
will nod at maps
which sanitise
his sacrifice.

Susie Wilson

Susie is a Scottish poet, living in Sheffield. Her poetry ‘interrogates human nature through nature’ (Malika Booker), is ‘tough but tender’ (Caron Anne Duffy) and has an ‘uncanny sense of a mind accompanying itself’ (Karen Solie). She is autistic and cares about poetry as perception and connection.
twitter.com/Concordmoose

Mushroom Cloud

Suddenly… overnight… mushrooms
Everywhere. The bloody things.
Save the dogs from the mushrooms.
Mow down the mushrooms!
Transplant the mushrooms.
Pick them off one mushroom by one.
Wonder if one day you could just
welcome mushrooms open armed.
Have the mushrooms for breakfast.
Are these mushrooms safe?
Don’t touch those mushrooms!
Beware the mushroom spores…
Watch out for the red mushrooms.
You know the thing about mushrooms?
They’re already there under all our feet.
Mushroom rhizomes stretch worldwide.

George Moore

George’s poetry has been published in The Atlantic, Poetry, Colorado Review, Orion, and Stand. Recent collections are Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry 2015) and Saint Agnes Outside the Walls (FutureCycle 2016). After a career at the University of Colorado, he now lives in Nova Scotia.

Child

I have seen a child in her times
have seen the flaming’s tongue rip twice

from the soundless and unseen mouths
of men who cannot form the word peace

and watched the vultures in black gowns
circle the dead like they were numbers

I have lived a curl on her forehead
a stray instant in a damaged mirror

and found her eye round as a target
or the moon outsizing the night sky

I have my desk right by her right arm
my hand on her face in the windowpane

and feel the vibrations of the storm
and have lived her life and not known it

for it did not last but a moment
a single finger in a torn glove

but she is the mother I am born of
and her children will never forget

That War

“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.


We eat our breakfast by a window overlooking the shore
and watch the ducks lull in an inlet surf

and the news is a screaming that comes across the sky
wakes the stones scattered down the beach like tanks

the fog turns to smoke and runs dull with destruction
We live a million miles and a split second from the war

our wounds are hard to see but our minds are sharp
as knives honed on the stone of invasion

The line between this spot on the map and yours
is a bloodline in the planetary evolution

We cannot trade this window for yours
cannot put back the cinderblocks and trees

cannot wake up to live in the quiet of the in-between
or rest until you too can sleep peacefully


War Poems

I read through the war poems
they are all so bleak

people living in bombed-out buildings
men falling at other men’s feet

the streets filled with the displaced
moving like a river to the sea

I look for signs of brotherhood
in the poems that survive a war

the poems that were dug out of craters
the ones left on makeshift latrines

the words scratched in signposts
or on stones left at graves

the poems written right before an offensive
that were never read again

The poem is an echo of a bullet shell
the eye of a child who sees life

always then in the aftermath
The poems of war are mad

but a map of how madness
can be cured by a word

sutured to seal an open wound
a voice with the soundings of stars

the multitude at home in a poem
where they can final return

and cannot be killed
and will not be silenced



Dorinda MacDowell

Dorinda is wife, mother, grandmother, lover of life and words – and constantly amazed at God’s grace and favour to her.

They Cried Out

Why do you shoot at us?
We are just children.
We cannot harm you.
We are cold.
We are hungry.
And we are afraid of you.

We are
just
children.

Their voices were swamped by gunfire
then the children didn’t cry out any more.

And the caviar is served,
the champagne is on ice.

And glasses are raised in celebration.

Robert Rayner

Robert Rayner joined Northumbrian Writers’ Group on retirement after a legal career. He has been successful in a number of writing competitions. His other interests include reading, travel, Newcastle United and Parkrun. He enjoys spending time with family.

Iron Collars

If a spiked iron collar had weighted
you down; manacles chafed red raw
your hands, or shackled, you’d watched
helplessly your kin dragged away
to be thrown into Atlantic waters.
If whips had flayed the skin from
your back beneath hot plantation sun.
Or icy tundra wastes had seared
your soul on the Gulag Archipelago.
Or at the Killing Fields, you’d seen
your baby’s brains bashed out against
a tree (to save Khmer Rouge bullets).
And if we’d not shrugged our shoulders
at Uighurs condemned to education camps
but remembered all these barbarities;
the indivisible bond between freedom
of thought and liberty of action, how we
overcame the one with his final solution,
and asked instead What together can
we do for the freedom of man.
Then perhaps, we would not now
be flinching at the footage of Putin’s
iron collar tightening around Ukraine,
and there see flames of freedom burn.

Sue Norton

Sue has been published in various magazines and anthologies.

Quentin Somerville Reports from Ukraine, 10/3/22

A pregnant woman cradles her belly
as they jolt her trolley outside
past the maternity unit
smashed to rubble by shells.

Quentin follows a trail of blood –
a civilian, just short of safety.
Four Russian and two Chechen soldiers
sprawl in snow by a filling station.

In a hospital hallway, shielded
from window-shatter, wounded Valentina
offers a poem to this new brutality,
her speech slow and emphatic:

These stupid Russian shrapnel pieces
I will carry all my life,
but so long as my heart still beats
I will live and love.

Valentina stays with me as I stand
in my garden to sniff daffodils
and blue hyacinths, our own explosions
of spring. Birds are nestbuilding.

She especially loves that thrush,
how he repeats each phrase
and broadcasts his song
fearless at the top of the ash tree.

Phillip H Simmons

Phillip’s poem is in memory of Victor, who walked alone in freezing weather as a boy to save his family from starvation during Stalinist days and who subsequently prospered.

Hope and belief

Under blue sky, waving wheat will
Keep feeding the People with belief
Reflecting the sun’s existential hope.
Amidst present scenes of utter hate,
In natural cycles of life and death,
New sunflower seeds will germinate,
Exceptionally tall, for greater success.

Nicola Thomas

Nicola recently started writing poetry and “Invasion” is her second published poem. She enjoys trying to write with a sense of rhythm and rhyme. Nicpla plays the piano, and musical beat and pattern feature strongly in her poetry.

Invasion

The rage of lunatics at war
Awakes a peace worth fighting for
Chaos caused by Russian traitors
Twisted metal, moon-like craters
Streets awash with shattered glass
Rubble, tiles and cartridge brass
Charred remains where trees once stood
Obliterated neighbourhoods

Shrapnel falls like driving rain
Too crude to choose who not to maim
Kindergarten schools explode
Hospitals once hit implode
People slaughtered as they flee
Ceasefires give no guarantee
Punctured bodies notched with scars
Lie in bullet-riddled cars

Explosions light the midnight skies
Plumes of smoke begin to rise
Air raid sirens sound alarms
Men and women take up arms
Pools of blood deep scarlet red
Reflect the missiles overhead
Scenes of total devastation
Merciless assassination

Crimes against humanity
Reckless pure insanity
The world looks on with eyes aghast
Such evil that one man can cast
A self-proclaimed messianic
Dictatorial satanic
Take heed! It’s time to be concerned
The ghost of Hitler has returned

Eamon Carr

Eamon is a writer, musician, and art historian whose poetry includes The Origami Crow (Seven Towers 2008); verse play Deirdre Unforgiven (Doire Press 2013); Dusk, verse play, staged at GPO Dublin and New Theatre 2016; Seeking Refuge, poems and photography, presented Festival of Politics (Dublin) 2019; verse drama film CúChulainn Awakes premiered 2021.

War Cabinet, Sinnott’s Bar, Dublin

The Gaiety lights have gone out.
From a doorway across the street,
through Dublin smog, figures flicker into view;
unsteady, steadfast, radiant poets,
their voices cutting through the fog of war.

Amid shelled apartment blocks,
living rooms laid waste, their insides hanging out,
soft furnishings blown apart,
family photos scorched and blistered,
amid the smoking craters, Pearse Hutchinson spikes
the muzzles of guns in Sumy
with flower petals from baskets woven over decades
in bleak Irish correctional institutions
by the dispossessed.
Compassion not rationed this night,
even if just names written in snow.

John Jordon, you supervise the cocktails.
Teams on street corners,
in busy Kyiv cellars,
blending petrol colours that will bleed flame.
You built high ramparts
from which to pour your boiling oil on tyrants,
no doubt remembering when,
having nursed you in a Catalan hospital,
Sister Purificación had asked
if sick foreigners received such
caring treatment in Ireland.

Resistance is also Leland Bardwell
pushing a bicycle and breathing
breaking-wave seashore air
amid the Kharkiv smoke, walking with
the millions displaced,
the women trapped,
the women fleeing,
the women in fear,
the children lost,
supporting those with broken bones
and spirits crushed.

Blood congealing on cobblestones,
Mariupol flagstones fractured,
shattered windows taunting – stained glass,
memories of bejewelled evenings,
opera, ballet, recitals;
Macdara Woods knows how the light falls
on the trenches, the foxholes,
distressed family pets, an eyeless skull,
the graves of young and old,
rhizomes defiant among the stones,
outliers for the ranks of corms
gathering strength below ground.

Mist shrouding the “famous for whiskeys” sign above,
we trail behind, alert to words dropped on South King Street;
alive to echoes of hope, prepared to join the chorus,
confident there can be generosity, comfort for the afflicted,
healing for the maimed, balm for all wounds
and, as bridges collapse and riverbanks flood in darkness,
with old certainties swept away, courage for the frail.
In a landscape of ruin, burials and grief,
late winter tears
nourish the fruits of harvests to come.

Liz Carew

Liz is from Scotland but now lives in the Cotswolds. She has published poems in magazines and websites such as Poetry Scotland, Graffiti and the Poetry Kit and read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and on Corinium Radio. She is a member of Catchword, Wordbrew and the Brockenborough Poets.

Voices from Kyiv

25th February 2020

They are interviewed on elegant streets
with a backdrop of golden domed churches.
Every word is highly charged
with urgency and terror
and a love of country.
A young mother with a pushchair
hesitates at the door of her apartment
I am afraid for my child’s future.
I don’t know what to do or where to go.
I have to keep up my smile for my baby.
Her daughter is swaddled
in a pink padded jacket with a fur hood
and we cannot see her face.
The next day, the interviewees are holed up
in shuttered rooms, cellars and metro stations.
An activist, pale faced with a halo of dark hair
reads out a statement begging the West for help
We are dying here, she says
but the connection falters.

In the evening they interview Sergiy, aged twenty
guarding a foot bridge in Kyiv.
The interviewer tells us he has only ever fired
sixteen rounds in his whole life
and here he is, alone, facing Putin’s army.
There are Russian enemies in my village.
They have tanks, heavy vehicles.
I hope my parents they will be fine.

The mayor of Kyiv announces,
The night, close to the morning, will be very difficult.

25th February 2020

Gillie Robic

Gillie was born in India and lives in London.  She is poet, voice artist and puppeteer in film, theatre and television.  Widely published in magazines and anthologies in UK and US, she has two collections, Swimming Through Marble and Lightfalls (Live Canon).  A third is due later this year.

The coming of spring

She looks out at her winter-ravaged balcony.
Staying out of the cold
she chooses which plants to prune, leave or cull
but can’t face the freezing air.
She sips hot tea and plans the future.

Nemesis surveys his halted ideology.
Happy with the old cold
he chooses which elements to prune, leave or cull,
dispatches his decisions to the freezing front,
sips hot tea, maps the future.

She no longer has a balcony, her shelter shelled and gone,
she’s raw in the cold,
carrying motherhood and mother
through breached and freezing air,
snow for water, no charts.

the lure of light

beneath a rooflight watch
the cosmos arc the hours
blue yonder-glow of day
at night the sight of stars
the winking height of planes
electric flicker clouds

a million panes of glass
reflect the city’s reach
above the shielding glaze
small silhouettes appear
growing down the air
a flight of missiles
                            falls
                                  towards the sky-
                           light
             shatters



war offices

i. ministry of food

Dan likes a bloomer
Alex artisan sourdough,
the displaced want bread

ii. built environment

of course shattered glass
but walls roofs every building
on the killing ground

iii. forest management

forests once pristine
become ashes and flinders
strobing in crossfire

iv. open skies

the thing with feathers
falls silent falling, falling
from the open skies

Ann Jay

Ann has twice been placed in the Hippocrates prize and was commended last year. The poems appear in their anthologies. Once upon a time she was a GP in West Wales where she still lives. Nowadays she is free to indulge a lifelong love of poetry.

September 3rd, 2009

We bought two sets of Maryoshka dolls
from a street stall
that day in Odessa,
strolled tree-lined avenues,
visited museums and the cathedral
the broad esplanade by the Potemkin steps,
ate borscht, chicken Kiev, cherry cake.
Our guide was proud to be Ukrainian

Later we walked up and down
the one hundred and ninety-two steps
imagined the pounding they’d got
In nineteen seventeen,
made ‘clever’ remarks
about Sergei Eisenstein.

The stairs are artfully designed,
steadily narrow as you ascend,
much more imposing
viewed from bottom to top,
than top to bottom
a wily distortion of perspective.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
How we see things.
How we judge.
I line up the gaudy dolls
baby one to biggest one,
swiftly tuck them away again,
nestle each inside another
to keep then snug
to keep them safe
like fugitives in a cellar.

Uprooted

                   I knew the family who lived here once
                             when it wasn’t just dust and rubble
                  a doll lies head down on the stairs
           baby eyes gazing    at the stars

    at the end of the street a golden dome
a few steps beyond         the bakery
           it once sold so much more than bread
                      but bread must do today

                   later                               
                                                     I come upon a tree
                          singed but still alive
                     I stop          
                                     and sit a while     and    dream
             and    then     trudge    
                                               doggedly     on

my nails are cracked         
                        and crammed with dirt
                                                 my blanket’s seen better days
I don’t know             where         
                            this journey        will            end

                                                                         I do know   I can’t return



                                      


Ricardo Purnell

Ricardo is twice winner of the Shoreham Wordfest Poetry Slam and has one self-published work which still sells in some independent bookshops in Brighton.

Putin’s Music


Schubert’s Serenade is a Putin favourite
Sooths his mind as much

He would have tried
Blotting notes from Putin’s ears
As yet, with no sanctions on sound
We cannot blockade

Screaming in silence
Schubert compositions sit amongst favoured collections
Medals and military milestones
Symbols of homes ripped apart
And malevolent gestures
 
Rest Schubert, Rest
When the world is closing in
Your serenade
Humane trap
May be his only escape

Allison Herman

Allison is a college English instructor and curious observer of human behaviour and society. She seeks inspiration from her daily life, current events, and the natural world, drawing comparisons between humanity and our environment. Her recent experiments with visual poetry contemplate the paradoxes and beauty in our contemporary lives.

We Follow the Headlines

 “A Citizen War”

We follow the headlines
News of converted cafes
Molotov cocktails thrown on the menu
Exploding across the papers

“They refuse to back down”

Elicit cheers of solidarity
From armchair activists
Now eager
To take up arms
to donate

“Women Training for War …”

From afar
we train
Ourselves
In sympathy

“… in Converted Classrooms”

My own classroom, assigned this project
–Write your own poem of social activism and awareness”–
I look into the void of the virtual classroom
Knowing there are students
Alexei, Olga, Tetyana, Andrei
Whose surnames may be in this war
Their accents rounding out dissent
But they are silent
No desire to turn out poetic phrases
Capturing the intimacy of war

Only Josh, Yuhui, Elizabeth, Francisca
Removed by culture or continent
Stretch toward the task
With platitudes of privilege
To capture credit

“Resilience of Ukraine”

But there is value
in this exercise
Of empathy,
I tell myself
As we learn to extend arms toward
Citizens of humanity
Assaulted in a clear dispute of
Good and evil

“This Isn’t Over”

War hinges upon
Persistence
Perseverance
Lessons from our
Institutions

Exams have their own urgency
momentum
Beyond the classroom

But can we teach
Our students
Here
To look at the sky
Abroad
And
Be brave?

Robbie Martzen

Robbie lives in Luxembourg. He has published a small number of poems and stories in anthologies and journals, mostly in his native country, and has been long- and shortlisted at various competitions. Some of his writing can be found at www.blackfountain.lu and www.cahiersluxembourgeois.lu.

And So We Wait

If I turn off the telly,
it makes me a coward.

If I don’t, it doesn’t
make me a hero.

Heroes, these days,
live elsewhere.

And so we wait –

for the scaremonger
must surely become
scared

and the warmonger
must surely become
wary

eventually?

An eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth,

but a continent
for a country?

And so we hold our breath –

let hope play
hide-and-seek.

And so we wait –

for the sun
to flower again.

Jane Spray

A member of Poets in Progress in the Forest of Dean, Jane has had poems published online, in magazines, and in many anthologies e.g. in Unravelling (Alba Publishing, 2019), Dear Dylan (Indigo Dreams, 2021) and Walking with the Wye (2022) speaking up for the polluted state of this river.

www.janespray.net

Zachem

After ‘So I’ll talk about it’ by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

So let’s talk about it.
A bitter sky unfolding
on the edges of a child’s dream.
Fine china rattling on the dresser.
Almost more ominous than sirens
is silence, at night.
Next door is gone. Outside, a crater.

Is that Mary Magdalene
with a missile,
Archangel Michael
flying a drone?
Apparitions of angels
trumpet war, witness genocide
as cities turn to rubble, to ash.
So we hear about it
incessantly, on the media.

The world is brimming with music and fire.
In a snatch on the radio, hope-defiant
the Kyiv Classic Symphony Orchestra
plays Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’
in Maidan square.

*
After this is over
the shock-coppiced chestnuts of Mariupol
may rise and green again.


Zachem means ‘For what?’ in Russian.
‘The world is brimming with music and fire’ is a line from Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan’s translated poem.

Chris Hemingway

Chris is a poet and songwriter from Gloucestershire.  His latest pamphlet “paperfolders” is now available through Indigo Dreams publishing, or direct from his website
https://chrishemingwaytmepoetry.com/about/paperfolders-2/

Wars Are Sure Not Over

Wars are sure not over.
A word they use to state.
How universal harmony
could never be our fate.

And constant conflict justifies
the shoulder-shrug controls.
Of dead-eyed under-adequates 
secure within their roles.

The ones who over-empathise
with the tarot cards they deal.
Not the ones who suffer
from the pay-off and the steal.

So wars are sure not over
and we are still not rid
of these flag-waving promisers
who never said they did.

Iris Anne Lewis

Iris is published on-line and in print. As a competition winner, she has been invited on several occasions to read her work at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2020 she was the Silver Branch featured poet on Black Bough Poetry https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/iris-anne-lewis
Twitter: @IrisAnneLewis

Hiding Ukraine’s Heritage

In haste museum staff erect the scaffold,
icons watch in calm contemplation.
Soon their framed faces will be packed
in bubble wrap, loaded onto pallets.

Ancient manuscripts, no longer
cosseted in climate-controlled cabinets,
are stacked in supermarket boxes.

The last load is dispatched.

Plinths stand bare,
display cases empty,
wall brackets hold
nothing.

The curator stands silent,
thinks of Khaled al-Assad.


Note: The distinguished Syrian archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad, retired as Palmyra’s head of antiquities in 2003 but continued to carry out research until the site fell to ISIS. He refused to reveal the location of antiquities that had been hidden and was publicly beheaded by ISIS in 2015. He was 82.

Aldona Kapacinskaite

Aldona is Lithuanian countryside born and bred, Paris groomed, London-educated university professor living in Italy, where she studies organisational innovation and practises individual creativity. She speaks six languages, enjoys surfing, singing, and twisting arms in Brazilian jiujitsu. Her poetry was shortlisted for the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize anthology.
https://twitter.com/aldonakap

day one


what would you do
when a burglar creeps up on you at night
amassing tools to break defences
from north and east and south of your house
you only have an old grandfather’s rifle
would you?

what would you do
if your children are still asleep
your distant friends thought maybe reality
was a distortion
maybe reality was a lousy exaggeration
their magical thinking
offered to send you some five thousand helmets
in case of a minor incursion
now they wear shocked faces, well dressed on TV
but you’re besieged alone with the burglar in your house
and time is tic-tac-toe-ticking

what would you do
when there’s a war in the core of Europe
the bread basket, Gaia of our continent
its balconies and airports and people
are caught in a deluded man’s shooting range
his history-making desires
living people are shot dead, on their land
what would you do?

what would you do
if someone comes twisting their tongue to belittle
your existence
your land just a mistaken gift
so they can liberate you
from your own freedom and future and choice
a tyrant’s ballot doesn’t carry options
what would you do
what would you do?
would you?

Vicky Hampton

Vicky is the founder and facilitator of PIPs, Poets In Progress, the only peer-learning poetry group in the Forest of Dean. Her prize-winning work has been published widely online, and in anthologies and ezines.

Nothing And Everything

In this place, winter smells of blood.
Our feet in the earth feel nothing. Nothing
is everywhere.

There had been a blaze in blue frozen air, then a roar
muffled like we remember a dog’s bark in snow
before limbs were torn from trunks and
our branches became flaming orbiters.

Satellites of sleepily wintering twigs have become nothing.
Not even dust. Not even these dark atoms of grey
now unchanging the hours.

In this place, history twists in its chains
its melancholic stain like
last year’s leaves in the streets, spreading
into the shock wave.

We are the quiescent dead. And there is nothing.
Ash falls with snow.

Below, an old woman in tatters stumbles
through the scattered city, unsteady against the truth
eyes blank as blown windows.

Our feet in the earth feel nothing, but we feel her
mumbling nothing, nothing
her whole body trying to think in the uncouth wind
doubting, amid the nothing
who she is

and we lean in, bend to her bleeding for her to hear
the beating heart of buds yet to bud from nothing
whispering

you are Mariupol. You are everything.


March 2022





Simon Monaghan

Writing as part of the artistic collective ‘leere’ since 2004, Simon Monaghan completed a selection of poetry entitled Smiling Stories of Triumph in 2012 and is currently working on a trilogy of pieces set in the respective cities of Coventry, Liverpool and Manchester. The first in the trilogy  (Inner Sanctuaries, City Histories) is now available through Waterstones Online. More details about leere can be found at www.leere.co.uk and www.facebook.com/leerecollective

Whispers of Lent to a Soldier of Russia


Who will walk in the silence
Of Mariupol’s streets
In this holy season of Lent?

Who will pause
Hunched
Like shadows casting lots
Within the very sight of this Golgotha?

Who will side with Peace
Pierced by truth
Then knowingly
Punch the air for Life
In the ruins of Mariupol
In these days of terror?

Who will offer their whole being?

Advance

For those
Innocent
Crammed into shelters
Holding up
Their empty human hearts
Desperate
For a touch of daylight
For any measure of relief
For a drop
To quench
Their chronic thirst
A meagre drop of hurried mercy
The Mercy of our one God

To advance

To whisper
In the ears
Of a Soldier
Of Russia

To whisper
Brave yesterday
Braver today
… You are a citizen of the one world
Breathe in
And breathe out
Catch the present
And turn your young hands
To the task of humanity

Advance

Lead

Now

In Mariupol’s
Silence

Peter McCluskey

Peter is a fiction and poetry writer from Dublin, Ireland and has published 4 contemporary novels to date. His first anthology of poetry, “The Flickering Tide” is due for publication Autumn 2022.

The Boy Who Walked To The Border  

And there he walks, his lop-sided stride propelling him forward.
Either side of him the road strewn with debris, with mud, with people.
See there –  see his jacket.
A tiny frayed blue and yellow ribbon badge clinging on to the zip.
See there –  his face. All his twelve years mapped out on his young brow.
What can he be thinking? What is he seeing?
Lviv is a dot in his backward glance.
See there –  his mother.
No. No he can’t see her now. She’s three day’s walk away.
She gets further away with each of his lop-sided strides.
See there –  the red and white border.
Someone calls to him to cross.
She has a calm face, her hand outstretched to him.
His finger touches his blue and yellow badge and he walks towards her.
See there –  she is looking at his hand.
He holds it out for her to see.
See there –  she can see the written numbers.
It’s all I have, the boy mutters.
See there – she puts the numbers into her mobile phone.
Your son is safe, she says to a woman in Lviv.

Wendy Webb

Wendy wrote her first poem, aged 11. A prolific poet, she’s learnt many rules of traditional forms, together with modern formats in free verse, acrostic, concrete, and other styles. She’s also devised her own forms, including the Davidian and Magi. Recently in: Littoral Magazine, Meek Colin, and Reach Poetry.

Volodymyr’s Rubaiyat (Acrostic)

Unfair that – for brave stars – we fall in love:
King’s face and wisdom, fleet as gods above.
Remembering – like David – just a boy,
Asking song and dance steps (to sling a dove).

I pray his bare Goliath keeps each toy
Night-light silent, sleeping, and without joy.
Enough to tank the gorgon home-alone,
Pandering worldwide strength (admired), so coy.

Expecting Spring’s blue/yellow buds soon come
Aureole-bright with hope and futures. Some
Children may learn at school, one day, what move
Enriched the earth: all heroes, each home-grown.

Gail Webb

Gail , born in Wales, lives in Nottingham. Her pamphlet, The Thrill Of Jumping In (Big White Shed 2021), has poems about loss, remembrance, ageing, the joys in life.  Gail is passionate about poetry’s ability to highlight the humanity in us all and to connect with others.
Insta: poetry_cocktail
Facebook : Gail Webb Poet

The Other Side Of War

I see a woman on the news
clutching her remaining child close,
asking who, who will find the dead children,
restore them to former lives, playing in the park?

She sobs for her baby boy bombed into dust.
Hopeless waves of grief roll over, soak us,
as we watch from sofas in rooms safe from war.
They show us flats on fire, missiles dropping.

Jerky armoured tanks, marked Z, take aim, shoot.
Tall grey tower blocks blaze, peppered with holes,
flames lick at the frost on their windowsills while
all around, ice is colder now. We freeze to the core.

I see a woman on the news, hear her cry for a baby
she once whispered to, softly mouthing against his ear
as bombs fell outside. She speaks of how they will live
the other side of war, when cherry blossom fills the air .




Roger Kirkpatrick

Roger had a publishing career which took him to Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest (but never Ukraine). He then decided to try writing himself which he says is “not easy!” Thirty years ago a Ukrainian friend who rejoiced in the end of the Cold War was murdered by commercial competitors. https://www.facebook.com/roger.kirkpatrick.524

MAY DAY 2022

REBOOT! PUTIN:
RESET PANDORA’S APOCALYTIC BOX
DEFAULT TO THE MAKER’S SETTINGS

On a birthday or a name day
they’d toast in neighbourly vodka
but this May Day
there’ll be no Ukrainian “budmo!”
or Russian “nazdorovya!”

TICK EACH SQUARE WITH TRAFFIC LIGHTS

PASSWORD ACCEPTED

NOW KEY IN YOUR PIN PUTIN
PUT IN THE FUCKING PIN
FOR ALL OUR SAKES
PUT IT IN

TIMING OUT!

PUT IT IN PUTIN. PUT IT IN

YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE!

PUT IT

Mark Mansfield

Mark is the author of three full-length collections of poetry and one chapbook.  His poems have appeared in Anthropocene, Bayou, The High Window, Iota, London Grip, Magma, Measure, Sarasvati, Visitant, and elsewhere. He holds an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee.  

The Just and Brave

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.
James Shirley

We who are safe, press sanctions, and send aid,
but dare not even once unto the breach.
Talking points from World War Three’s cold case get made
again and again, in measured tones, as beseeching,
prayerful hands are wrung by the great West,
except a precious few who would have stormed the beaches
at Normandy, now crossing Poland, Dnieper bound.

From these days to the ending of the world, unbowed,
standing alone, Ukraine shall be remembered.
For recall this well, since time will not forget:
Only the actions of the just and brave
rise like the sun and blossom from their grave.

Annie Ellis

Every time I See

a sunflower,
I think of you.
Fleeing from shells that hit
your homeland,
running from tanks that
invade your space.

Leaving soldiers to fight for you
many of your friends have died.

You should be free
to wander peaceful roads
but that cannot be
for now
but maybe
one day
you will come back
to find sunflowers growing.

I can’t put a name,
a voice or a face to
your person.
But whoever you are
living in Ukraine
I think of you.

Ivantiy Novak

Vlad’s Letter to Ukrainians

“I know, I know: my secret ache
Will anger you in its confession.
What scorn I see in the expression
That your proud glance is sure to take!What do I want? what am I after,
Stripping my soul…” wait, wait, whose soul?
“With a pure heart…” that’s even dafter;
Fuck’s sake Vlad. Think! this rigmarole
Is turning titbit bloody dodgy…
What do I write then?
“Demago-d-gy!”
— is that the word? —
“You are corrupt!
You see, my chicks, it is an illness
The cure for which is wide-eyed stillness,
And so, to cleanse…” no, too abrupt.

“I mean it’s ‘pay-check’! —
scratch that —
‘payback’!

I had to rip your lungs apart
‘Cause NATO’s got me by my nut-sack.
And I don’t like that. Why? Descartes.
You don’t exist unless I think so.
You made me think, you asked, face-front:
‘Why do you rape us you old cunt?’
And tried to actually leave!
(I mean, oh
Суки! You tried to actually leave,
And live, pretend to live, pretending
Укрáина’s not mine believe
You cannot give, misunderstanding
I’m still hard.)
This, your ‘existence’,
Relies on the non-resistance
To Мать-Россия when she blows through
Children’s brains and mothers’ throats. Yer
Daddy will remind you who is who.
You lot were serfs and in our care
Since Pyotr’s days. Your dispossession
Gave us our land, Black Sea, our share
Of meat — of men — our core progression
Needed your souls, your hearts, despair;
We made you eat each one, and other!
In ‘32. Holodomor.
That’s really not so long before —
Why then do you begrudge your Father
As if I’m mad or am possessed?
I am like them, the Tsars, an Eagle,
So bow and say to me, your Regal:
‘Gorge on our breast, Vlad, so we’re blessed.’’

Суки = bitches
Укрáина = Ukraine
Мать-Россия = Mother Russia

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