Featuring poetry by Lesya Bakun, Rhys Hughes, Ron Pickett, Michael R Burch, Kirpal Singh, Suzanne Kamata, Mini Babu, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Sybil Pretious and Mitali Chakravarty
These fragments I have shored against my ruins … Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shantih shantih shantih -- Wasteland (1922) by TS Eliot
These lines from a hundred year old poem by TS Eliot continue to cry out to be part of our civilisation’s ethos as do the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s pacifist song, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind‘ which wonders : “Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly/Before they’re forever banned?” The world continues to war destroying nature, lives and a common human’s need to exist in peace and go about his daily tasks, secure that the family will meet in their home for dinner and a good night’s rest. Cries of humanity in crisis from the battle grounds of Ukraine take precedence as Ukrainian Lesya Bakun writes about the plight of the people within the country stalked by violence and death.
REFUGEE IN MY OWN COUNTRY/ I AM UKRAINE By Lesya Bakun (07.03.2022, Ukraine) I am Kharkiv. I am Volnovakha. I am Kyiv. I am the blocked Mariupol on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. I am the completely destroyed City of Shchastia -- That is literally translated as "happiness" -- Where people have to sit in the bomb shelters, Because nothing else is preserved. The Russian troops are not letting them out. I am Ukraine. I am a fighter. I am a refugee In my own country. What's in the minds of Russians? Nine years ago, I was in Strasbourg, France. Seven years ago, I was in Dublin, Ireland. Two years ago, I was in Istanbul, Turkey. Today, I am In an internally displaced people’s centre -- In a city that I cannot even publicly disclose For the security of too many families Who are fleeing to remain safe. "The Ukrainian IT company N has left the markets of Russia and Belarus forever". We should have done it eight years ago. We should have done it thirty-one years ago. A lot of my friends are switching from Russian to Ukrainian. We should have done that thirty-one years ago So that no one comes to "protect us". I am the gasoline that NATO sent us Instead of closing the sky -- Apparently so that we can burn The Budapest Memorandum We have seen the real face of Russians Again They negotiated green corridors And started shelling from the heavy weaponry. Evacuation is cancelled. "I wish you survival, Health And the closed sky above you."
As the battle rages and razes, some react to what we have gleaned from media reports, some of which move hearts with stories of bravery and the spirit of the people battling the invaders who kill and destroy what they cannot possess… But can freedom of thought and resilience ever be destroyed?
THEY SHALL NOT PASS By Rhys Hughes They shall not pass we cried as we held the pass against the enemy. And our sleepy student days in sunlight suddenly seemed long gone and very far away though it was only a few weeks since war began. Would such times ever return? We had no idea. Now the conflict is over and the years pass with increasing velocity and right here in the rebuilt city I am young no longer. I am the teacher: it is my turn. And as I watch my students dozing in sunlight instead of revising for exams an old refrain fills my head: They shall not pass. 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. 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 ... FOR A UKRANIAN CHILD WITH BUTTERFLIES By Michael R Burch Where does the butterfly go ... when lightning rails ... when thunder howls ... when hailstones scream ... when winter scowls ... when 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? THE TIMES, THE MORALS By Kirpal Singh (After Ee Tiang Hong) Testy times Tempers flake, bruise Blood swells veins As memories burn. Times were When reason prevailed And men talked -- Eyes glittering. Now it’s tit for tat No relenting Frayed nerves Know no restraint. We pray n plead For sanity’s return As pall bearers Carry another dead.
When will all this horror, violence and sorrow end? Will there be peace anytime soon… many voices across the globe join in quest of harmony.
A VIEW OF MT. FUJI (March 3, 2022) By Suzanne Kamata On the third day of the third month of the fourth year of Beautiful Harmony (Reiwa) which followed the era of Heiwa (Peaceful Harmony) my husband, son, and I traveled to Gotemba. We checked into our mostly vacant hotel wandered the grounds amongst oaks and bamboo and volcanic rocks gazed upon the majestic mountain symbol of Japan. Mt. Fuji stood calm and dormant and frilled by cloud spotlit by late afternoon sun. As we stared in wonder and awe BOOM! an explosion resounded. A black helicopter like the ones over Kyiv flew into view. I recalled the military vehicles we’d passed on the highway those young men driving to practice for self-defence. When will there be peace in Ukraine? When will there be peace in the world? RUSSIA AND UKRAINE By Mini Babu After the war, the repose of the dead, settles over the nations. The leaders will smile, shake hands and interchange the bodies of the dead, maimed, captives and, each will dust that which belongs to the other, wash their hands and walk away. Children hold on expecting their fathers, unknowing that fathers never come back after war. And I, the ordinary, instruct my children how historic these names are for examination. Putin and Zelensky. PEACE TALKS IN THE FOREST By Sybil Pretious I breathe I sit on the hard cushion of root, foundation of growth Peace talks to me in the forest Leaning against the rough trunk bark, feeling of strength Peace talks to me in the forest Above the leaves, cover me with a protective shade Peace talks to me in the forest Flowers flutter giving a splash of colour Peace talks to me in the forest Seeds heralding new life hang, dispersed on the wind Peace talks to me in the forest And I wonder Why do warring nations not meet in forests For peace talks where peace talks. PRICE OF PEACE By Malachi Edwin Vethamani (I) Peace is a gentle brook, natural and real. Peace is not things to come, not imagined. We arrive as beings of peace. One with all around us, same flesh, same blood. Then labels are thrust upon us. baptised into communities, branded as nations. Essentialist labels bind us and blind us. We shed our individual beings, stitched into communities. If you are not with us You are against us, they say. Taking a stand comes with a price. The price is often peace. (II) This is yet another call to stop a war. A new plea for peace. A shout out for prayers. The callers change with each new war cry. This too will pass. How much will remain? How much decimated? Then these cries will be repeated. What is lost? Is anything ever gained? We will smell the stink of death and see the rubble of destruction. All the display of human unkindness we inflict on our fellow beings. (III) What new enterprise, what profiteering, has brought on this new war? Surely, no noble cause can condone this waste of lives. Whose monuments will we pull down now? What new statues will we raise for self-proclaimed heroes? What of the spouses who lost their partners? What of the parents who lost their children? Children and citizenry casualties all. Crushed and broken. WASTELAND REVISITED AFTER A CENTURY By Mitali Chakravarty The river flowed with debris, with bodies of the dead. When the waters reddened with corpses crossing borders on a train, nightmares haunted myriads of lives. The undead cried till infecting more, the anger, the hatred spread. That was more than seven decades ago. History repeats itself. Will it ever stop? This hatred? This war? Does killing, destroying ever help? Does it dissolve the buried hate, the anger, the deaths? Swigging blood like vodka, the madmen brew war with oil, weapons, the threat of nukes to annihilate all lives — make barren the Earth. Cosmic clouds gather to thunder, ‘Da, datta, dayadham, damyata’ till peace comes with love songs that echo through the Universe. A Brahmic vision of kalpas like waves ebb and flow, calming the cries of tortured souls. Oh God! Help us learn Mercy. When will the white horse ride to our rescue? Or was that all a myth? Kalki? Does the white horse ride out of each soul to form a lightening that dispels mushroom clouds? Peace be unto you. Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!
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8 replies on ““How Many Times Must the Cannonballs Fly…?””
I hope all poets and lovers of poetry will unite in supporting the Ukrainian people in their time of great peril. I am honored to have my poems used in such a good cause.
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Thanks Michael. We are privileged to have all of you and Lesya with her powerful poem paving hopefully a path to an eventually war-free world.
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I think you have assembled a good and fine collection, in a very good cause.
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Thank you very much.
Very kind of you.
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This is a lovely collection! Congratulations! To think that this is the 100th year after The Waste Land; things remain much the same! Let poetry cry out …
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Thanks Anasuya. Changes probably take longer when it comes to mindsets… and if we do not learn from history, we will keep repeating ourselves.