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A Poem to Ukraine with Love

“Why am I compelled to write?... Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger... To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit...

Finally I write because I'm scared of writing, but I'm more scared of not writing.” ― Gloria Anzaldua

PAEAN TO UKRAINE March 26, 2022

by Sonja Franeta

I write this, for I cherish People in Ukraine and in Russia I write this not because I think One means more than the other I grieve other wars in Syria, In Ethiopia, yet I talk or read about Friends every day there,

There, where They are, under fire. In love with some,

In days gone by, Mothers, sisters, in stories and poems they rise.

My family, Paean, [piːən].

Poet, painter Olga wrote yesterday: I dig in the garden here Away from my home, My place in Kharkov That I check in the internet To see if it’s been bombed. I plant carrots and radishes

And say, after reading reports—

Whatever will be will be. Gena sends her needed medicines

From Kiev under attack by mail.

Months before this war she wrote: The government of my country [Russia], by using children to repress LGBT people, is destroying its own future. As for the present – Russia is on a path to fascism and bigotry.

Bombs and death all around now,

For years and decades to come

How could it do more damage To these spirits, if they live

Anastasia wrote this in a text: We’re holding steady

At times I hear battle sounds

Situation is very tense. But the people around us Are so good. So good.

Somehow it all keeps on going

They want to destabilize us

Deprive us of food Other than that, what is there?

Another month or so If only things won’t get worse

When I hear explosions I just think—I want to live Overall, we’re feeling a fatalism Not reflecting on what’s going on now,

Or crying—that will all come later.

And at the start when we talked of visits She said— If I ever see you again... My shoulder hurts like hell. I cry.

Mornings these days I wake up worrying I wake up wanting to write a paean (pean) гимн/hymn

of pain for Ukraine, for my shoulder, for humanity, for Mother Earth.

Imperfect! What poem, what paean is perfect? I write my roar, I roar for those in struggle Russian army marches toward Black Sea coast. Dolphins are there, special dolphins

The sea I traveled once to get to Odessa To visit the girlfriend family years ago

Now in a humble house in Kherson

“Fifth day without light, heat, water.”

Humans have learned nothing Evolving decades yet dealing with traumas Doubling back like a game of history. Mines would lay in fields for decades. Let the giant octopus strangle the humans. Humans.

Animals don’t do this. Don’t have history.

Animals don’t have armies and countries

And politics and grievances and paeans Puppy sits on sand and Yulia just Loves it, little puppy so innocent, carefree,

Bombs going off in the distance. We use too many articles in English. Throw them out.

Children and mothers in pain. One child kisses

Her mother in news footage of people in Kiev.

Her head in a kerchief guarding their stuff while

Her child runs off for food or supplies. Breathe. Breathe. Visualize the water washing over

My shoulder.

Olga stopped singing, stopped painting.

Joy has fled, destruction loosened, death

Premature. Love in time of war and plague

Holds us more dearly. A microcosm of the planet

World’s snoring doesn’t stop.

My shoulder keeps pace with pain

Silence of cats and me Trembling hand Takeover of nuclear plants Creep of conquerors, history

Written by them. Breathe.

Who will remain after the sixth extinction?

Humans like dinosaurs will be leveled Nadia of Pussy Riot paints her lips roaring red

And declares: Patriarchy RIP A paean to pain. I breathe, Precious red shoulder bathed in white light.

Maybe we shouldn't try so hard to survive

Let the songs remain: a Russian lesbian,

Living in Ukraine singing, painting, Cats hissing here, Reminding me to get fed.

We all fall in love with different people And do different things in life. The occupiers

Though, must go. How? I don't know. We are all peons. We are all Ukrainians. We are Syrians, Palestinians, Sudanese. Beholden to the system.

I do my exercises twice a day.

However imperfect. Every paean Imperfect too.

Let me end with words from Hafiz “I wish I could show you When you are lonely Or in darkness—the astonishing light

Of your own being.”

The astonishing light

Of your own being.



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