By Nataliya Belchenko
Translation: Hanna Komar, John Farndon

While the world vomits war
And falls in the void entirely,
Spring is already sharing more
Cranes and storks with me.

Cranes – crane-berries – hold the essence
And ooze out fear and assent,
As the original pain ascends
To your hands as spring ice ends.

Future tense, past tense, yes –
The grammar is but halfway set,
The storks are sleeping on their nests
They’ve not even got here yet.

Ukraine Armed Forces and the volunteer
Never sleep. And born in the basement —
In this new wartime era —
The child will receive new testaments.

The snow over Krakow is falling so
That it slows all words and deeds,
So that it slows your tears’ downward flow
From the fear for Kyiv that war feeds.

Krakow is like a teenager’s jacket:
In one pocket you find yourself again
Intact, but in the other pocket
Unconquerable despair and pain.

In the right, you’re a spark sharp flashing
From Szymborska’s lighter.
In the left, you’re agonies gushing
Out with Irpin’s dark floodwater.

Mothering Sunday

on your way, to the west and to the east
shake out all the doves inside you.
dad’s little knife, taken needlessly,
slices in two the hardest fruit.

recognize in your own face
mum and dad, and cut through,
forgive and feel your brother,
kiss grandma’s footsteps too.

in the quiet exhaustion of the fight
I lean on another’s back once more.
with them, the living, near and dear
we’re all naked, as naked as war.

lips, hands, though whispered out,
touch in – come swimming from the waste
to dry a tear and give strength
so you don’t scurry to the mist.

July-ness — its qualities so well-known
Every fern into flower is flown
And all who live between fire and water so,
To rivers and lush gardens go.

And the fecund moon imprints on me a kiss,
Not only she, and thanks for this
Not only thanks, but my womb will be
Never empty, in all eternity.

War has crossed you like a border
And nothing’s banned in this disorder –
A river you are now, or some meadow,
Run, run, as you can, or grow.

The fern blooms, Wilga glides through
Rudawa, Drwinka, and the sheer blue.
Oh harvest month, sharpen your sickle, and scythe
The sickly stalk of war’s gross tide.

To Marianna Kijanowska
In fact, it wasn’t easy in the end to drive
Along the way and reach the words
Until delivered by the stork midwife
Of Lithuania on wings of birds.

Shnipishkes, and its wood homes by the score,
Freed the Vilnius inside of me.
But for those stuck in the vulva-war,
When will things become pain-free?

For these, trakais and druskinkais,
Among castles and lake shores
Seem to signify ways
More painful than even before.

Yet the pagan power of August’s unabated –
Joan of Arc, Marianna, stay strong.
It didn’t just capture but liberated
The paths under our hearts so long.

And the field, crookedly ploughed with blood,
Answers with a wave, coming nearer.
But no ebbing will withdraw the flood –
A thunderstorm draws on the Mesozoic era.

Day breaks first on translators’ faces
Then to those nesting in the furrow’s mud
Who neither fly south to warmer places
Nor ever in vain lose their blood.

Birds, birdies, nestlings, ptaki
Oh pterodactyl, how upright
And eloquently, signs catch the eye, see.
Adam, Adam, a hand, the page is white.

Animula vagula blandula
Wcale nie wiedziałam, jak cię bardzo kocham
Juvenes dum sumus[1]
Just not the humus now
Let it be a poem, a poem

[1] Latin: ‘Sweet little wandering soul’ – the opening lines of a famous poem said to be the final words of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, bidding farewell to his soul
Polish: I didn’t know how much I loved you
Latin: ‘While we were young’ from ‘Gaudeamus igitur (Let’s rejoice)’ an old and very well-known academic drinking song


More than half a year has gone up in smoke.
Polina, Elizaveta and Ustinia
met Lidochka on the chalk mountains.
I recorded her voice live on a dictaphone
and now I don’t have the strength to listen,
something in me is very, very protective.
This something found the positive,
in the event of an attack by moscow and a possible escape:
you won’t have to bash your brains anymore
over how to transport a bedridden patient.
The numb being still listens
for the moan that was heard from time to time
over two and a half years from the next room.
The experience of being a daughter is over.
What will your road be now, anyone?