“As Putin and Biden bluster threats of war, and so-called antiwar activists echo imperial lies…”

Sam Friedman

A long-time socialist’s poem reminiscing about friends and experiences in Kyiv in the shadow of the threat of war in Ukraine. — Editors

As Putin and Biden bluster threats of war, and so-called antiwar activists echo imperial lies

The sounds and smells of Kyiv’s Sunday market,
of Andreisky Descent,
fill my nose and eyes;

visions of stalls selling souvenirs
of half-remembered Soviet Union years,
and fur hats white, of local design.
I recall wandering through icy streets in Odessa,
bending to stroke the cat before the tiny market
below the office nineteen floors above
where Pasha, Anya and I once nibbled pastries
and talked of AIDS and how to fight it.

Will tanks and bombs rubble Gorki’s hallowed home tomorrow?
Transform the quirky statues above the Descent into
bundles burning like my dreams of long-lost friends?
Will the restaurant where we ate pickled carrots and well-spiced shashlik
and the lawn before it where I often scribbled poems beneath the chestnuts blooming
now reek of blasted bodies
of social worker friends who taught homeless children
how to avoid the modern plague?

And will the chessboards of Shevchenko Park
lie shattered, mated,
where young invaders cook tasteless noodles,
rue their nineteen weeks away from life-mates
and pray to someday return to home?

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