For the last few nights I have jolted awake every hour or so in panic and anxiety about the situation in Ukraine. My parents were Ukrainian refugees during the second World War and I grew up in England. Throughout my childhood I heard horror stories from my family about what they endured when they fled their home at short notice during the Nazi invasion not knowing where they would end up and carrying only the few belongings they could gather. Today I wept upon seeing footage of Ukrainian families having to run for their lives just like my own family did seventy years ago. I still have cousins living in Ukraine and God knows what is happening to them. I feel powerless to help. My mother’s home city of Dnipro was bombed today by Russia. I am glad she is no longer with us and spared the knowledge of this atrocity. She died three years ago. As a gesture of support and solidarity for the Ukrainians who are now homeless and terrified I am posting my poem ‘Heartland’. It is based on my mother’s story and is one of the poems in my recent book, The Rush of Lava Flowers available on Amazon.
The train is leaving but I am here
in a yellow room with curtains of sky.
The door is chained from the inside,
the lock and the mirror are broken.
The train is leaving and you’re not here.
The prints of army boots have scarred
the wood I once polished on my hands
and knees with melting candle wax.
The train is leaving, I can hear it’s wail.
On the sunlit balcony above treetops
where the birds have fallen silent,
a young boy hangs from a rope.
The train is leaving to I know not where
but my cat is hungry, my roses wilt,
poor Mishka waits on the window sill
and they will not fit in my suitcase.
Will I find you arched across wild waters?
Will I see you in the sparks of burning pines?
Will you shimmer like an island in an ocean of wheat?
Will I smell you in the northerly like the promise
of snow or grass that is limpid green?
Will I meet you in the white lines in the middle of the road?
Will I catch you like a ghost in a speaking mirror?
Will I taste you in buttermilk pancakes
or tea sweetened with cherry jam?
Will I feel you in the blue fur of a cat?
Will I discover you folded inside yourself
like a secret at the back of my wardrobe?
Will I fear you in my dreams of showers without water
or scroll you on my screen as a drone
follows the River Dnieper Mama once swam?
Will I hear you in the trains as they scream through the night?