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Poetry from the front

Fallen Soldier by Michael Camara
Poetry from the front
Article by: Borys Humeniuk
Translated by: Jeffrey Stephaniuk
Edited by: Lisa Spencer, Melinda K. Busch


By Borys Humeniuk

Commander, what do you mean to say
My chances of survival, of remaining whole
Through this war
Are 50-50?
Which 50% of myself am I expected to sacrifice
For my native land?

For love of country
Perhaps I must be separated
From my feet
If it means being left with my arms?
Here they are. Take them
I can manage with only my hands
And still hold a rifle
While lying still on reconnaissance
I can throw a grenade
Or reach for a radio
In order to call down fire
Upon myself
I would have no problem embracing
my children, except
I won’t be able to embrace
The greatest woman in the world
My wife
I wouldn’t have the strength
For her to see me this way
Or at least what’s left of me

For love of country
Perhaps I must lose my eyes
And retain my ears in exchange
With which to hear from what direction
The shells are flying
Then I would be alerted to his footsteps
And have time to ready a grenade
Only to be blown up together with him.
I present to you my eyes
Here is my right, there is my left
See that you don’t mix them up
The right one is better
For fixing a target and firing
I can get by if I have my hearing
Later, when I’m in a wheelchair
Sitting at a pedestrian underpass
Blind and lame
Asking for charity
I’ll hear clearly what passersby are saying
The harried housewives and upstanding citizens
I’ll hear their complaints that the streets of their cities
Are overrun
With all these outsiders, invalids, and war amputees
It is impossible to get past them, they’ll say
What with their children and their dogs
Someone should move them all to one place
And hide them from the rest of us

Or maybe, Commander
What you mean is half my life?
I am now 35
That’s all of two years older than Jesus
When he died
Dear God!
How much one can go through in 2 years!
All the extra times you can caress your beloved
All the kind words to tell your mother
Two children could be born in that time
Commander, do you have children?
I have four! Four girls
Oksana, Zoriana, Chrystyna, and Olesia
We hadn’t planned on such a large family
I was trying for a son
But every child is such a joy, a blessing
Every second of your life!
I bet my next child would have been a boy

If a man must render half

His life for his country
Then here is the half from me
It’s just too bad that the half left for myself
Has already been lived
Not that I’m complaining
Just a regret that had I known

I would have lived my life
A bit differently

Commander, what about you?
You are 49
It appears your country has given you a loan
On some of your life
I understand: If middle age is 35
In order for you to reach the age of 49
A third of us who are 21 must soon die
Am I right, Commander
Do I understand correctly?
It wouldn’t be fair to add children
To the equation
Two at 10 ½ years a piece?
See what a diabolical arithmetic is conjured by war

Commander, speak
Don’t remain silent. I need you to tell me
What I am supposed to do
With my heart
Thumping loudly beneath my ribs
Like the harsh stomping of boots
How is it possible to give half my heart
To my country
When all of it belongs to her?
What answer am I to give?

Just then the enemy artillery erupted
And began to hit our position
From that moment
Each was preoccupied with the sound
Of his own weapon
He who was 35
And the one who was 49
And the 21 year old


Borys Humeniuk is a Deputy Commander, Battalion OUN

Related Articles:

Open letter to President Poroshenko, by Borys Humeniuk

“The war will be protracted, but will result in the collapse of Russia”

Translated by: Jeffrey Stephaniuk
Edited by: Lisa Spencer, Melinda K. Busch
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