by Joani Reese

Hromadasection break

(a whole in pieces for the people of Ukraine)

I: Moscow

They polish words

that do not shine

coupled with cruelty

bound by trope

their twisted tale

of foes friends foes

blunts clumsy feints

toward honest prose

upchucked from tyrants'

liquid mouths who profit

most from snuffing lives

and sweep aside youth's

fruitful years to fumble

for a fist of earth, gone fallow

under February's stars.


II: Donbas

Draftees backpack lethal loads,

some fly spy drones, march southeast roads

to scarify a country, unremarkable

two months ago.


We eyeball screens, dreamy with gore.

Swift Migs hurl shells that rupture, tear.

As sirens blare, we savor snacks.

A billion techno fools watch war unwind.


Our darkened rooms display death, Live!

Most watch in benumbed ennui.

Ukraine unpacks worn guns and garb

while puppet Russian boys depart


their homes for tanks thrust

toward the sun-bright south—

Ripe sheaves of wheat will burn again

as soldiers set Donbas aflame

the same flame that they lit in 2014.


III: Mariupol

The press reports one woman's

curse that Ukraine's golden sunflowers

burst like arrows from the bloody breasts

of Russia's uninvited guests, aslant across

the cobblestones that once composed the lanes

of Mariupol, and now there's no one left

to rape or kill.


Fatigue from three pandemic years

enshrouds the world and wearies fear;

COVID expunged six million lives

this new war thrums the body count.

Retreat impacts a factory whose steel

can't block trajectories that murder

with impunity. The victor or the vanquished,

who will tell?


IV Kharkiv and Fastiv

Her camera captures shadow girls who leak from their respective shells.

Gashed by marauders, sullied skin can never be stitched right again.

Healing delayed's an empty cup and sluggish aid can't cover up

the dead spread under midwives' sheets, the disemboweled

who drape the streets of Kharkiv and Fastiv.


V: Dnipro

Ripples, once small, gather in power, soon shrapnel seeds

those yellow flowers in boys who scream before they break.


Face rictified with how he died, one young man can't reverse

his plunge from primacy to lumpen meat that smears the blasted brick

of Dnipro.


VI: Bucha

Civilian death discovered all around

this town Russia has fouled. New battle

lines appear as babies howl for mothers


gone who cannot comfort them again.


Pink girls ascend a bullet-riddled wall,

eye journalists who stiffen where they fell.

Church bells wail over Bucha, then stop still.


VII: Cherkasy

Sly, covetous oppressors lie,

deny atrocities nearby as endings

lurch toward dates we cannot name.

Remorse never revived rent flesh.

Limbs fetal-curl beneath the sky.

We gape and shake our heads a world away,

watch lives unfurl and furl in Cherkasy.

Who will revenge the wizened child

green eyes pried wide, future erased,

the question she'll forever ask,

"Was I just born too early, or too late?" 


VIII: Kherson

Ships burn in port,

smoke blackens tongues. 

Bone children tread

on shattered glass.

Kherson, now home

to no one but the dead.



With ammunition flowing in, a fatigued man, face gaunt with strain, refuses to concede another inch. The world first thought him callow, soft, expected him to scurry off to someplace safe in exiled luxury. Two months go by, no longer naïf, the man still helms this ship of state despite the odds predicting swift defeat. The world astonished that Ukraine still meets each sun, courage the same, to best a man bereft of empathy. Some heroes spring whole from necessity. One could not guess, much less predict, this man would shoulder history, pick up a sword and reverse destiny.


section breakHromada: community (Ukrainian)



©Joani Reese 05/04/2022