How did it all begin?
She spoke about courage and weapons.
She doesn’t have a voice — it’s more like a multitude of voices.
So when she spoke it seemed like
she was just talking to herself.

Putting letters and sounds together
so every word flared and glimmered.
When she told me about ether compounds
it seemed like she was recounting Christ’s suffering,
singing through the parts that didn’t make sense.

She wanted to explain to me
that in each of us there’s irremovable valor,
that history – that’s just dead cities and grave plaques,
that the future – that’s black earth and red meteorites,
that loving – that’s breathing exercises,
afternoon thirst.

You have to compete for the opportunity to fall asleep together,
break the enemy’s ranks for the opportunity to wake up together,
leave balconies together with her and nighttime rooms,
cut your hands on metal ropes,
value your capacity to love,
like the highest capability.

Even her untruths were measured.
Up ahead, joy and loyalty awaited her,
blood baked into the sleeve of a tunic.
What keeps birds in the air? Faith, obviously.
What keeps fish in the river? Tenderness, obviously.

© Serhiy Zhadan

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