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Poems for Ukraine

This page contains poems dedicated to the children of Ukraine and their mothers, fathers and extended families. We have English translations of poems by the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and original poems by other poets. I hope the entire world will join forces to quickly end this new Holocaust. Never again! ― Michael R. Burch, an editor, publisher and translator of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

We call on the entire world to support the Ukrainian people in their quest for freedom, independence and self-determination.

Epitaph for a Ukrainian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

If we are to ever have real peace in the world,
we will have to begin with the children.

Vladimir Putin is serial-murdering Ukrainian children and their mothers. A former American president, Trump, called Putin a "genius" and "savvy." No, it is never "smart" or "savvy" to launch an invasion that will result in so much avoidable death and destruction. Trump also called Putin's excuse for invading Ukraine "wonderful." How can Trump not know better? I believe Gandhi was correct. We can only have real peace in this world when we value the lives and happiness of children over the lusts of power-mad despots like Putin.

Dear God!
by Taras Shevchenko
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dear God, disaster again!
Life was once calm ... serene ...
But as soon as we began to break the chains
Of bondage that enslaved us ...
The whip cracked! The serfs' blood flew!
Now, like ravenous wolves fighting over a bone,
The Imperial thugs are at each other's throats again.

Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (1814-1861) was also known as Kobzar Taras, or simply Kobzar ("The Bard"). The foremost Ukrainian poet of the 19th century, Shevchenko was also a playwright, writer, artist, illustrator, folklorist, ethnographer and political figure. He is considered to be the father of modern Ukrainian literature and, to some degree, the modern Ukrainian language. Shevchenko was also an outspoken champion of Ukrainian independence and a major figure in Ukraine's national revival. In 1847 he was convicted for explicitly promoting the independence of Ukraine, for writing poems in the Ukrainian language, and for ridiculing members of the Russian Imperial House. He would spend 12 years under some form of imprisonment or military conscription.

Zapovit ("Testament")
by Taras Shevchenko
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I die, let them bury me
on some high, windy steppe,
my tomb a simple burial mound,
unnoticed and unwept.
Below me, my beloved Ukraine's
vast plains ... beyond, the shore
where the mighty Dnieper thunders
as her surging waters roar!
Then let her bear to the distant sea
the blood of all invaders,
before I rise, at last content
to leave this Earth forever.
For how, until that moment,
could I ever flee to God,
knowing my nation lives in chains,
that innocents shed blood?
Friends, free me from my grave — arise,
sundering your chains!
Water your freedom with blood spilled
by cruel tyrants' evil veins!
Then, when you're all one family,
a family of the free,
do not forget my good intent:
Remember me.

Come Lord and Lift
by Tom Merrill

Come Lord, and lift the fallen bird
   Abandoned on the ground;
The soul bereft and longing so
   To have the lost be found.

The heart that cries—let it but hear
   Its sweet love answering,
Or out of ether one faint note
   Of living comfort wring.

Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Ukraine

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

by Emily Dickinson

These Strangers, in a foreign World,
Protection asked of me―
Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
Be found a Refugee―

This poem by one of the first great, truly original female American poets still speaks eloquently, passionately and powerfully to the modern world.

For a Ukrainian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails
when thunder howls
when hailstones scream
while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

"For a Ukrainian Child with Butterflies" has been set to music by Pauli Hansen and performed by a choir in a concert at the Nordic House in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. It is song number two at the 11:30 minute mark at the following link:

On the Killing in Ukraine
by Bob Zisk

Do not disturb the ghosts of Babi Yar,
Who lie in the shadows of this old ravine,
Where winter light shines on the shattered feldspar.

The doors of memory here stand ajar,
Opening onto a cold, denatured scene:
They sleep here, all those ghosts of Babi Yar.

The land's contours conceal a bitter scar
Where time is passing in a sad dream,
And winter light shines on the shattered feldspar.

Here let there be no untoward sound to mar
This quiet stretch of rock and sprawling green
That holds the muted voices of Babi Yar.

They rest here, having come from near and far.
Among the monuments and well trimmed green,
Cold winter light shines on the shattered feldspar.

Once more there is a cacophony of war,
But the sharp, lonesome winds quiver and keen,
"Do not disturb the ghosts of Babi Yar,
Where winter light shines on the shattered feldspar."

The Heart of Hell
by Martin Elster

A theater where thousands shelter
as in a tomb—they swelter
dreaming of water and food,
falling as infants squall.
A maternity hospital—
falling, they can’t elude
the missiles and bombs which batter
peaceful towns, vibrant cities, a nation.
Apartments in high-rises shatter.
They fear annihilation.
They flee by the millions. An age
has begun. And who can gauge
whether this is the final stage
of humankind or the birth
of a more harmonious Earth?

Hymn for Fallen Ukrainian Soldiers
by Michael R. Burch

Sound the awesome cannons.
Pin medals to each breast.
Attention, honor guard!
Give them a hero’s rest.

Recite their names to the heavens
Till the stars acknowledge their kin.
Then let the land they defended
Gather them in again.

Advantage Intruder
by Ron Pickett

The sun edges over the cluttered horizon.
The cell towers, eucalyptus and large water tank are comforting.
The sun slowly fills the dark.
Life is safe and warm and good – for now.
The sun slides below the western horizon in Kyiv and darkness returns.

The dark brings its special unseen terrors.
The rumble and rattle of distant rockets and bombs.
The roar of jets and the throb of helicopters.
Flashes of light fill the night sky but there are no storms in the distance.
The earth trembles: the people quiver.
Daylight is ten long hours away, we who have been there remember and shudder.

There are patches of dirty snow on the ground.
On trees and shrubs and the Peoples Friendship Arch.
And under the rubble of bombed buildings.
The snow is marked by the black stains of explosions and the red stains.
The snow will melt with the coming of spring, but the stains will remain.
The stains are physical and psychological and deep.

Dark is the province of the predator.
Dark is a comforting cover for the aggressor.
Dark is the source of fear and anguish for the weak.
This predator is man who can see in the dark.
To see at night is a huge advantage.
Advantage intruder.

Originally published by Borderless Journal

Ron Pickett is a retired naval aviator with over 250 combat missions and 500 carrier landings. He was the commanding officer of a squadron and a human resource management center. His 90-plus articles have appeared in numerous publications. Ron’s areas of specialization are leadership and management development and customer relations, among others. He enjoys writing fiction and has published five books: Perfect Crimes – I Got Away with It, Discovering Roots, Getting Published, EMPATHS, and Sixty Odd Short Stories.

The Ghost of Kyiv
by Michael R. Burch

Terrible angel, phantom avenger ...
abandon compassion, take to the skies,
seek out the murderers of women and children,
send them to hell with relentless eyes.

“It would be better for a man to be hurled into the sea with a millstone around his neck, than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” – Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2

by Dory Beatrice

The news is terrible:
War in Ukraine.
Cities being destroyed,
Mothers and children fleeing for their lives,
Russian attacks relentless, ruthless.

Yet, in spite of all this—
Flowers all over our town are preparing to burst out.
Large purple and white blossoms are starting to appear on trees.
Tiny pink flowers just peeking out from their buds.

A maternity hospital bombed,
Millions displaced, nowhere to go,
We are trying to help, but it’s not enough,
And by the  way are we on the verge of blowing ourselves up?

Yet, in spite of all this—
The variegated leaves are a crisp yellow and green,
Smiling daffodils already blooming, nodding hello to us,
Delicate blue flowers opening on their stems, wafting in the breeze.

This is the moment. Will it be life or death for us all?

In spite of all this, the life force is flowing, calling, preparing to burst forth
In a huge display of beauty and joy, exuberance.

Just stop and look.   And breathe…

Dory Beatrice is a psychotherapist with over 40 years of experience treating individuals and couples, now retired. She has also done many years of volunteer work with Tibetan refugees in India and in San Diego, where she lives, and this led to the good fortune of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama several times. In San Diego she also worked with asylum seekers, mostly from Somalia,  who were recently released from Detention and had no place to go; she set up apartments for them to stay for several months. In her counseling practice she has led groups on aging, personal growth and on spirituality. She “dabbles” in writing when she feels moved by something, and is especially saddened by the current crisis in Ukraine.

We Are Here
by Michael R. Burch

“We are here.” – Volodymyr Zelensky

We are here. Were are here.
And we won’t disappear.
We are here. We are here. We are here.

We are here. Have no fear,
our position is clear.
We are here. We are here. We are here.

And yet we need help.
Will earth’s leaders just yelp?
We are here. We are here. We are here.

Our nation stands strong.
Will you choose right, or wrong?
We are here. We are here. We are here.

Now let me be clear,
Vladimir, dear:
We are here. We are here. We are here.

I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the children of Ukraine and their mothers

I pray tonight
the starry Light
surround you.

I pray
by day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels' white chorales
sing, and astound you.

Dispensing Keys
by Hafiz
translation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile
constructs cages
for everyone he knows,
while the sage
(who has to duck his head
whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys
all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy,
prison gang.

I  love the wisdom and spirit of Hafiz in this subversive (pardon the pun) little poem. I can see Putin and Trump putting refugees in cages, while Hafiz goes around letting them out for a moondance! — MRB

Behold the Men
by Michael R. Burch

If ever men were brave, behold the men:
they withstood the tyrant and his bloody reign.
If ever men were brave, behold the men:
the valiant men and women of Ukraine.

Here Dead Lie We
by A. E. Housman

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

"Here Dead Lie We" is one of my favorite poems because in two perfect sentences it captures much of the heartache and heartbreak of young men who fight and die for their countries in wars which, all too often, have little to do with "national defense" and much more to do with the ambitions of wizened warmongers who sit cynically on the sidelines while other people fight and die. (I wrote the previous sentence many years before Putin's invasion of Ukraine.) The difference between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers is that the former are fighting for freedom, independence and self-determination, while the latter are fighting to make a coldblooded tyrant a bit more powerful. A related poem is "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, who died just two weeks before the armistice that ended World War I.

by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Ukraine

Something inescapable is lost—
lost like a pale vapor curling up into shafts of moonlight,
vanishing in a gust of wind toward an expanse of stars
immeasurable and void.

Something uncapturable is gone—
gone with the spent leaves and illuminations of autumn,
scattered into a haze with the faint rustle of parched grass
and remembrance.

Something unforgettable is past—
blown from a glimmer into nothingness, or less,
and finality has swept into a corner where it lies
in dust and cobwebs and silence.

The Declaration of Independence
by Thomas Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights,
that among these are life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

The lines above are poetry, written in a ringing iambic pentameter. These may be the most important words ever written, as they changed the course of human history by challenging the "divine right of kings" and placing the rights of commoners on the same plane as those of sovereigns and lords. Unfortunately, Mr. Putin was apparently napping when the subjects of equality and justice came up, if he ever studied such things.

Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Ukraine and their children

There never was a fonder smile
than mother’s smile, no softer touch
than mother’s touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than “much.”

So more than “much,” much more than “all.”
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother’s there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father’s back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother’s tender smile
will leap and follow after you!

by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

This is one of the great invocations in the English language: to join William Blake's "mental fight" against the Satanic Mills of big business and warmongering tyrannical government (which Dwight D. Eisenhower would later call the "military-industrial complex"). Blake would undoubtedly have included organized religion in the mix, creating an unholy Trinity for free men and women to oppose.

Haiku for the Mothers and Children of Ukraine
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.

Dark-bosomed clouds
pregnant with heavy thunder —
the water breaks.

The sun warms
a solitary stone.
Let us abandon no one.

You astound me;
your name on my lips
remains unpronounceable.

Born into the delicate autumn,
too late to mature,
pale petals ...

Soft as daffodils fall
all the lamentations
of life’s smallest victims,
unheard ...

Crushed grapes
surrender such sweetness!
A mother’s compassion.

My footprints
so faint in the snow?
Ah yes, you lifted me.

An emu feather
still falling?
So quickly you rushed to my rescue.

The eagle sees farther
from its greater height—
a mother’s wisdom

Dry leaf flung awry:
bright butterfly,

Late autumn; all
the golden leaves turn black underfoot:
soot ...

Poems by Michael R. Burch translated into Arabic by the Palestinian poet Iqbal Tamimi

مقتطفات من أشعار مايكل آر برتش محرر مجلة الهايبر تيكستس للشعر ترجمتها ل لعربية الشاعرة الفلسط ينية إقبال التميمي

Autumn Conundrum

لغز ال خريف
ليس الأمر أن كل ورقة يجب أن تقع قي نهاية المطاف
إنه مجرد أننا لن نستطيع أبدا ً التقاطها جميعاً

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

Piercing the Shell

اخترا ق القشرة
لو خلعنا جميع واقيات ال حرب
ربما سنكتشف سبب وجود ال قلب

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

Epitaph for a Ukranian child

مرثية ل طفل فلسطيني
عشت قدر استطاعتي، وبعد ها متّ
إحذر أين تخطّـو: فالقب ر واسع

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Suffer the Little Children
by Michael R. Burch writing as Nakba

I saw the carnage . . . saw girls' dreaming heads
blown to red atoms, and their dreams with them . . .

saw babies liquefied in burning beds
as, horrified, I heard their murderers’ phlegm . . .

I saw my mother stitch my shroud’s black hem,
for in that moment I was one of them . . .

I saw our Father’s eyes grow hard and bleak
to see frail roses severed at the stem . . .

How could I fail to speak?

Related pages: Sandy Hook Poems, Aurora Poetry, Columbine Poems, Courtni Webb's Sandy Hook Poem and Possible Expulsion, Darfur Poems, Gaza Poems, Haiti Poems, Hiroshima Poems, Holocaust Poems, Nakba Poems, 911 Poems, Trail of Tears

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