liturgy for ukraine

Two Poems by Nicole Yurcaba and Stanley Galloway

dn
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Dnipro Duet
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It’s difficult to write after three glasses of wine
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not the fingers finding keys but the left lobe latching to the right
glimpsing skewed chance in a blurry mirror
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eyes stinging clear covering all the distance that feet won’t cross
exes and the oh’s they bring to numb lips
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while other exes are banished from thoughts and conversation
and new ones emerge from minute-long fantasies
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where the rusalka commands gymnastic sexual feats with strangers
at the dock where a walkway crumbles into a river beyond the rapids
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lack of fun(d)s         lack of confidence
culmination of romance desired          reality’s disappointment
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idyllic river scum-spotted by pop music bastardization
the sound of music drifiting through kalyna and eidleweiss
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zither of melody calling gulls like ducks to the hull
and a lone sailor smoking as he lowers ropes along the side
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where the naiad takes a new disguise in full-length red skirt
her hair tied in a ponytail         waist cinched with a belt
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tongue sweet as caramel on sausage and nails
driven through palms and feet             into wood
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planks of weathered decking cracked and brittle
paint peeling                white   blue
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horizontal green-gray, lapping but not tipsy – don’t accuse –
let her stare into the mirror
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as Narcissus contemplated the nature of singularity
and a woman contemplates the silliness of monogamy
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each a sterile end lonely in ways that the white of a lemur’s tail stands alone
hard at the tip
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soft in the hair as a hot wind over the Sea of Azov.
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Liturgy for Ukraine
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Cycle of vibration hour after hour
because modern day offers batteries
instead of coal or steam to be stoked
solar panels pane towards the clouds
taking in       putting out        taking in        putting out
like cranes swooping to catch fish from the river
where a gleam of sunlight betrays
the ship’s bow displacing what we cannot walk on
gliding over shades of Scythian, Mongol, Nazi, Soviet
borders redrawn
             redetermined
             remapped
overlaid palimpsest of people on people
an embroidery of red on black
                        on red on gold
                        on blue on green
                        on red
a bank where swimmers dive half-nude
half-covered with history and heritage
and a language imposed by an empire long fallen
letters rattled from Latin, Hebrew, Greek
a faith brought by Cyril and Methodius
screened through scarves and centuries
carved on box lids and church doors
                clothes and egg shells
wooden spoons and forks painted
with berries, blood, pride
the kozak and Halya
carrying water by city and generation
bandura strings and folk songs
             stringing life from two hundred colored threads
             stringing painted glass beads around a neck
fences keeping in             keeping out
a young girl with her face buried in her arms
her officer smoking, smiling, looking away
both knowing it’s not long until he rides to war
or to another lover in another city under fire
half a league    half a league    or across the Dunay
borders blurred and people first their own
for all eternity                                     all eternity                              amen
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nic

Nicole Yurcaba is a Ukrainian-American poet and essayist, who teaches at Bridgewater College and serves as the Assistant Director to the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Whiskey Island, Raven Chronicles, and many other online and print journals.
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galloway_stan
Stanley Galloway, nominated Best of the Net in 2011 and 2012, teaches English at Bridgewater College in Virginia. His chapbook Abraham is available from Sierra Delta Press. His full collection Just Married is forthcoming from unbound CONTENT. He has also written a book of literary criticism, The Teenage Tarzan (McFarland, 2010).
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