To read / 11 January 2024

everyone will have their own story

Poetry by Natalka Marynchak


***

and each of us will have a separate war
disheveled personal
everyone needed a wall
one’s own wall
to endure
the wall of the varsity the palace of industry* the city council
the wall that in your imagination is the center of the universe
the center of your personal rockfall
the place of strength
the place of your fall
the place of your awareness and sufferance
the place where you were born and died
by death trampling death

everyone will have their own story
of broken paths and breathlessness
everyone will have their own defended territory
of roaring and laughing
I now have a heart
of reinforced concrete
it knows neither pity
nor comfort

March 9, 2022

*An office building, the Derzhprom (State Industry Building), located on Freedom Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine; UNESCO architectural monument.

***

our embroideries
are like notches red on the bare flesh
like the wounds cut by glass
by fragments of iron
by pieces of concrete
look right here is a little bird
bloody-red
a shell hit right near me
the hit my great-grandmother remembers
here’s a stitch of black
such a long furrow
of the black burn of black turned earth
my great-great-grandmother’s black longing
for my own longing

and over there my roots speaking
above the slashed red
over the burnt black
as over a mutilated and murdered body
we’ll plant the best
the most painful flowers
and I resist a while
then take a thread and a needle
and start embroidering

here is my land
this is my long journey
this is a hill in flowers
this is the water we had to make sure we stocked
this is the melted snow that we drank
this is the fire that gave us life
this is my blood
reaching the old world
this is my body
leaning over

O Lord
I will keep on
stitching
all the pains my people
have lived through
are all strung on this thread
here’s a red mark of my unbowed will
here’s a black mark of my strength
and all my victorious flowers
that can cover up both the earth and the heart
with their delicate petals
thin shoots soft stems
gossamer scrims
strong ribs

April 6, 2022

***

in my garden the flowers sway their heads
the cats squint and jump madly
we know they say that you attract luck
hey you ‘procured’ some cat food why are you crying
I am not crying
I am swallowing air
and it does not go down it burns and gets stuck in the heart
there are so many chords in the world
but I can only make tierces
what are you doing
I go on planting my gardens
every bush and tree I put in the ground
means there would be less misfortune
more air
more

each root is wreathed with a rosary of incantations
every stem turned for the light to fall
only from the celestial bodies
just to shake off hesitations
and doubts that beauty is in everything
even when it seems that there’s nothing left of it
the beauty

let these flowers trees and bushes stay in this soil
and every spring remind
what it was like to plant them sleeplessly
what it meant to whisper and speak to them
you need to persist and resist
you need to bloom and bear fruit
so that in a few years little kids
under the garlands of light and flowers
could laugh and rejoice
could simply be and live

with my eyes open wide I continue walking quietly
where are you heading today the cats silently ask
but I still don’t know where to go
it’s simply easier to go out without knowing the way
like pulling the lacework strings of the roads
someone will get what you are praying for
do not hesitate and just take it

wherever you go reach your goal
I say to myself – and the cats
bless my back, wink and purr narrowly
then they sit down at the threshold
whispering to each other
and their address plaques tinkle
so eloquently in this silence

April 29, 2022

***

and with cold wind the hardy grass comes
the sharp-leaved bitter green
the grass that endures this cold and darkness
the one which is more durable than oak and maple and ash
the one which can bury the bomb craters
and cover up the most painful wounds
the one into which it is so enjoyable to fall with a lover
here the grass rolls under the wind
and looks like a deep green sea
after the war leaves our suburb
we will plunge into this green grass my beloved
not counting our bruises injuries scratches fractures
fall down quenching our hot fatigue
I will ask you if you have a home
no, you don’t have a home
but wait, down into this greenery of grass
you say I realize
I am at home

sprout your shoots the green grass
in spite of all human action
contrary to death and despair
we so need your green testimony here
that life is precious

May 11, 2022

***

instead of the bibles and psalters we hold our telephones
which reveal to us all the signposts and all the roadblocks
and we pray clutching a piece of plastic and metal
muffling our abyssal groans and recollections
in the middle of brushwood days
instead of bread and wine we long for hardtack and drinking-water
save me and my freedom
from every corner
from every scaffold
from every phone
save me O Lord
because I will stand here until the end
holding this city’s line of defence
holding the shield over this place
who are you He asks
but I don’t know what to say
I am the one who cannot sleep nor eat
I am the one who finds the light in places
where it is dreadful to stand or sit anywhere to rest
I am the one who collects oneself and goes there
the one who loves too much
this factory this country this city*

May 16, 2022

*The poem refers to the bombed-out Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the author’s hometown. Natalka never left it and currently lives there.

***

every night I say the names in prayer
of everyone I know
protect them О Lord give them full strength

take care of Maksym Serhiy Andriy Artem
Oleh Serhiy Serhiy Savva
Oleksandr Maryana Anna Maria
newborn Dmytro
sick Olena
unwell Oleksiy
take care of them all
all whom Your hand can reach
everyone for who You are the last hope
Nadiya, who is expecting a baby and whose
                                name means hope – take care of her, too
take care of them all, do You hear me

a whole country of ripe names that must withstand
resist and survive
give them firm ground under their feet
give them the strongest embrace
and those who will not yield grant them a chance
let them be with these reliable ones
let them not become prey

every night majestic walls grow out of the names
the walls of houses and streets villages and cities

what is there in our broken villages and cities
they are there no more
Anna Iryna Horpyna

what is there in our burnt-out buildings
there are toys left in the gardens
whose toys are these
Serhiy’s Evheniy’s Maksym’s
Tetiana’s Olena’s Sara’s

what is it under the stooped heavens
it’s the last fear dying
whose was it
Serhiy’s Artem’s Oleh’s
Olha’s Maryna’s Maria’s

June 7, 2022


Translated by Lada Kolomiyets

Author

Natalka Marynchak

Natalka Marynchak is a recognised poet in Ukraine, where she lives in the bombed-out city of Kharkiv. In her poetry, she expresses her love for her city, the people and country, as well as her appreciation of life, even (or particularly) during the war.

 

Photo by Valeria Neborak

 

Author

Lada Kolomiyets

Lada Kolomiyets, Dr. Philol. Sci., Professor at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and (currently) Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College, is an interdisciplinary researcher in linguistics, literature and translation studies, a historian of translation, with several monographs, textbooks for graduate students, literary anthologies, book chapters and multiple articles published in Ukrainian and English in the leading peer-reviewed journals; she is a translator into/from Ukrainian working presently on translations of the wartime women’s poetry.

 

Photo by Katie Lenhart

 

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