By Oleksandr Boboshko
Translation: Raman Abramchuk, John Farndon

Viburnum in the gardens is turning red as blood.
Explosions roar like thunder and the people die.
Poor angels are hovering over graves lost in the mud –
hiding in the treetops as insidious shrapnel flies.
Widows are weeping bitterly, cursing year ‘14
and the earth falls in despair, not thinking it a sin.
in the steppe wind, gold and crimson leaves are swaying –
as summer scent drifts back with mint-lovage memories
Please, oh Mother Mary, save our side from hurting
and save those on the other from the world cult of the Russkiys[1].
The East does not always bring a bright and clear new morning.
There lived a dog…[2]’ Before the war. Oh that dog was yowling!
But everything that was normal once now has such a bitter taste
And the refugee-packed train rattles slowly through the waste.

Where are you running off to, crazy!
The crossroads brims with blood red hues
Off to wars or earthquakes new?
Grass withers, and the corn burns fiercely.

Even faith’s been scythed to nought;
And the smoke hides the sky completely…
Who is it that roars so unnaturally
That the garden plot cannot yield aught?

Who needs them, those green courgettes
those plump peppers and those carrots there?
in the heart now are only pain and despair.
The Smoke of the Fatherland[3]… How bitter yet!

Where are you going, fool? Hold on
Do you think it’s easier somewhere else? Unlikely
The Hot Phase is stained and bloody
And still goes on
goes on
and goes…

Birds of love, come back soon
To the half-forgotten nests of our souls…
So many Salomes in murderous dances
Tried to claim
our champions’
heads whole.

A hayrick is burning, lit by a neighbour,
A targeted train flies off the track.
For a thousand separations there’s only one wedding,
For all the crucified – only one came back.

And the sky sends a flood, then a tsunami,
leaving no shelter for the weak and the poor…
Come, migrant birds, come back to us soon –
Salvation, we are praying and waiting for.

Stop ringing that bell
with its jangling peels
We’re drinking all day
to sooth our nerves
Already, the gray-haired king hears
a happy drunk voice:
“Lieutenant-Colonel Theseus
has demine-o-taured
the labyrinth.”

“Thank you, son.
You deserve a medal.
Make room on your chest.”
And he bends over the map,
happy and tired.
An island,
still strangely unoccupied,
comes into view
and drunken visions of
instant invasion
bubble into his mind

Only the starry night
was making things dicey.
The still air
was doing its best to slow
the armada’s progress.
So there was still hope: a pardon for the damned
as medical orderly Ariadne
pleads to heaven
for mercy.

It’s all just war… Barriers, wounds and blasts.
Someone’s dead dog. And someone’s dead son.
…The signs in the subway here say ‘no exit’
And if there was an exit, you’re too weak to go on.

The TV scares you on an even larger scale.
All the columns yell: „Let’s save the injured now.
Officers’ young widows are wasting away…
Someone rages: “Let them perish, they’re not ours anyhow.”

It goes on even now. My anger’s unabated
to those who go on bringing grist
to a stranger’s mill,
which has already ground so many fates,

Towards all those for who it’s only ‘just a ruble’[4],
who even now head off to Sudak and Koktebel[5].
Thousands of deaths
strangely never bothered them

Don’t stare at the moon in the depths of a puddle!
Look at the sky – and admire it up there.
An autumn night is so sad and so casual.
The trees freeze in their threadbare attire.

A strong heart escapes from under the heel
even if slowly – but surely and always.
And for the Judas, fear, you’re setting a noose,
and now you wait calmly for crucifixion day.

Get lost, gloom! Bare your teeth, steadfast boar!
The sky’s on your side. Spread out for you
in the cold rain – on your hot feelings,
or first snow – after the wild October storm.

Summing up – for half a life before death –
Don’t even dream
of raising the white flag.

[1] The poet references Ivan Okhlobystin, the notorious Russian actor, priest and media person, who promotes the ideas of Russkiy mir, rebuilding the Russian empire

[2] ‘Once upon a time, there lived a dog.’ Or ‘Once Upon, a Dog’ was Soviet cartoon from the 1980s based on a Ukrainian folktale, about an old and unwanted watchdog who regains his value with the help of an old wolf

[3] Reference to the famous phrase from Russian poet Griboedov’s poem „Woe from Wit“ (1833) where a main hero Chatskiy says ironically „And the Smoke of Fatherland is sweet and pleasant to us“

[4] Slang for Russian cash

[5] Ukrainian resorts in Crimea occupied by Russia since 2014