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'What Have You Got There, Brothers?': An 'Untitled' Poem From Ukraine

Ukrainian poet Iya Kiva raises questions for Russian invaders and her fellow countrymen as Ukraine continues to endure unending war and hardships: 'what have you got there, brothers...ask our dead'

'What Have You Got There, Brothers?': An 'Untitled' Poem From Ukraine
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we’ve packed a contraband humanitarian aid kit of war songs
and shipped it to Europe America India and China
paving the silk road with great Ukrainian literature

what have you got there, brothers — they ask at the borders —
silence dressed up in cyrillic letters
the sacred fire of the candlelight letter “ï”
our and your freedom to rest in a land of love
like the broken trees of distant memory

what have you got there, brothers — ask our dead —
the history of a tribe with a dirty rag in its mouth
rotting chests filled with grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lives
which we’ve carried for centuries as if shouldering the Carpathians

what have you got there, brothers — ask our living —
cloths embroidered with military chronicles and stretched-out sweaters of wrath
sloppy sketches mapping the new Europe
children’s dust-jackets for future books

what have you got there, brothers — ask our mirrors —
copper coins of breath in our ripped pockets
the disquiet of air in the broken frames of our mouths
the pulsing streaks of time in our red eyes

(This appeared in the print edition as "Untitled")

Translated from the Ukrainian by Amelia Glaser and Yuliya Ilchuk

Amelia Glaser is Associate Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. Yuliya Ilchuk is Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages at Stanford University

Iya Kiva is a poet, translator and journalist

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