Never again is now:
Crowded railroad platforms,
babies, toddlers, grandmas huddle
in Kyiv’s metro, sleep on cold cement.
Tanks and cluster bombs,
Refugees on busses, trains, bicycles,
in cars, on foot
carry what they can.
How to choose
what goes in the wheeled suitcase?
What item can carry the weight
of the life you leave behind?
Your cat hates travel,
squirms in your arms,
but you will not leave him
to starve and die in this ruined city
You push ahead, one foot
in front of the other, cat in arms,
toddler in stroller
suitcase lurching behind
over broken pavement.
In Romania, volunteers and police
line the sides of the border bridge
toys and teddy bears greet
children crossing from Ukraine,
“the smile of the little ones, their joy
when they get sweets or fruit
from border police seems to relieve
the pain of the mothers”
The Russian invasion begins
tanks are met with middle fingers
and Elena, a Kyiv grandma sits smoking
on her balcony. She hears a buzz,
sees something floating,
She grabs the nearest heavy thing,
a jar of pickled tomatoes under her chair.
Elena hurls that jar
from her balcony, brings down the Russian drone.
She throws the parts into separate rubbish bins
in case of tracking software.
Elsewhere, boys, eighteen and nineteen,
dressed in skateboard gear, sign up to fight.
Each one gets his own Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Before he joined the territorial defense force,
to make Molotov cocktails.
“My parents are proud” he tells the journalist.
He says “I feel a bit scared, no one wants to die,
even for your country, so
death is not an option”
Never again is now.
Ars Poetica: Giving Voice
I feel the rupture
when icebergs split
into the Arctic Sea,
when wildfire engulfs
an old growth tree
and it explodes,
I hear it scream.
When the new brings
refugees and ruined cities
into my home,
a cluster bomb of words
wells up in my throat,
behind my eyes,
creates unbearable pressure
to bear witness.
How Grief Warps Time
murky light filters
between the shade
and the window frame
moon waxes and wanes
seasons shift – snow melts, crocuses
push through what’s left
the clock unwinds, grief punctuates time
first robin, first thunderstorm, first sunset
reminders of your absence
Judith Prest is a poet, photographer, mixed media artist and creativity coach. She has two publications by Finishing Line Press, After, (May 2019) and Geography of Loss, (July 2021). Her poems have been published in Waxing and Waning,Misfits, Rockvale Review, Mad Poet’s Review, Chronogram, Akros Review, The Muse~An International Journal of Poetry, Earth’s Daughters, Up The River, Fredericksburg Literature and Art Review, Upstream and in eight anthologies, including Black Lives Matter: Poetry for a New World from Civic Leicester in the UK.