Beautiful Ukraine

When you clean your weapon
When time and again, you clean your weapon
When you rub strong-smelling oils into your weapon
And shield it from the rain with your own body
When you swaddle it like a baby
Even though you’ve never swaddled a baby before —
You’re only nineteen, no baby, no wife —
The weapon becomes your only kin
You and the weapon are one.

When you dig trench after trench
When you dig this precious this hateful earth by handfuls
Every other handful reaches your soul
You grind this earth between your teeth
You don’t, you never will have another
You climb into the earth like into your mother’s womb
You are warm and snug
You’ve never felt this close to anyone before
You and earth are one.

When you shoot
Even when it’s at night and you don’t see the enemy’s face
Even when night hides the enemy from you and you from the enemy
And embraces each of you as her own
You smell like gunpowder
Your hands, face, hair, clothing, shoes —
No matter how much you wash them — smell of gunpowder
They smell of war
You smell of war
You and war are one.

BORYS HUMENYUK Translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky

Independence Square Kyiv

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