Monday, October 3

To Katya, aged seven, in a bomb shelter in Kyiv | Ben Okry


TOll around you missiles
Are falling. churches
You once knew won’t
Be there any more.
The streets you walked
Will be changed by
blood and shelling
And bombs. it seems
The world’s gone mad.
As the Earth shakes,
Not because of the rage
Of the gods, but that
One man wants to
win back a lost empire,
You will think that
Your world is being
Shattered for ever. It is.
But out of the destruction,
Out of all this thunder,
Something new will
Eat. whatever happens
Your land will know
The courage of its soul,
Its people; and history
Will be rewritten not
With the force of an autocrat
But by the steadfast hope
And desire to be true
To the beauty of your earth
And all you have
Suffered. Katya in your
Bomb shelter, we’re with you.
We’re there in the shadows
We’re there in the silence
Between the explosions…

*

Those who destroy your land
Destroy themselves.
Always remember what
Your land fights for,
The right to its future,
Without any force from
Outside. Katya, we are
Donate with people forcing
Us into their own dream.
We are done with being
Told who we can or can’t
Be. A time comes when
You stand and say
My future’s mine to dream
My land is mine to till
My life is mine to imagine
You will not break my truth
You will not distort my
Dream. You will not
Destroy my future, who
Ever you are. you may
Pulverize our churches,
Our roads, theaters, and our
Hospitals, with hundreds
Hiding in them, but you’ll
Never touch the
fountain of our dreams,
Or the deep world
From which we will create
Every day a radiant
Land. From this bomb
Shelter we’ll dream again.
Your shelling is our resurrection
Your missiles are missives
Of our regeneration.
All that you ruin
Are all those things
Which must go so
That we will for ever
Be free to be what we
Truly are. For even
If you win, the victory
Is ours. for you’ve
Tempered our souls
And revealed to us our
True selves which we
might never have
Found without your
Wish to crush us.

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*

Katya, in your
bomb shelter, it’s
a scary thing
When people act
From the great emptiness
Of a loss of empire.
An empire is a vast ego,
A gigantic delusion, and
It makes people think
That they own the
Souls of others, that they
control the destiny
Of nations, and that they
Are somehow the masters
Of the Earth. loss
Of such a delusion
Can make people insane.
Sometimes when a leader
Is unhinged by this loss
They are prepared
To destroy the world so
They can return
To their lost dream
Of vast terrains in which
Eleven they were gods.

*

It’s not good for humans
To entertain the delusion
Of being gods. So Katya
It is not your fault
Someone wants back
What they should not
Have taken. It’s not ours
Fault that we dream
Of freedom, that we want
To be ourselves,
Live our lives, make
Our own mistakes
And determine our own
Destiny. No one can
Rip that away from us.
The age of empire is over.
The age of freedom is
Here. They may dominate
Us still with their might and
Their nuclear bombs,
But they will not
Determine who we shall
Be, or where our
Fire and our dreams
Will take us. I am with
You are in the bomb shelter.
I am a bomb shelter child too.
This will end. It will pass.
So drink the sweet
Waters of the Earth.
Sing songs to one
Another in this time
Of darkness. the
Monster’s worst roar
Is often just before
It falls. There are not real
monsters in life,
Just people who’re
Deluded, or mad, or
Lost in ideas that stray
too far from the
Wise road of the human.

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*

Fires are howling
In the streets that the
Centuries built.
There are tenements,
Bomb-sliced ​​in half,
In which you can
See the innards
Of apartments.
Your roots are entangled
With the souls of those
Who seek to murder you.
I hear that their soldiers
Weep as they drop
Bombs on their distant relations.
See, they’re driving
Their knives into their own
Hearts. Such a great
Civilisation, home to
Such madnesses.
They learned nothing
From Lev Tolstoy, Katya.
They learned nothing.
Napoleon tried to do
The same thing. I have
Won too. but what
A loss that was.
They burned their famed
City so that what he
Won was ashes.
He sat there in the throne
Of ash, and eternal winter
Descend on his head.
That was the commencement
Of his end. They
Nothing from War and Peace.
Nor from Hitler.
A people determined
To be free can
Not be compelled
To be unfree again.
Even if you kill them.
Do you know why?
katya? Well it’s because
We are made of a stuff
Not of this Earth
And when we find
Our truth a new beauty
And force is added to
Theuniverse.

*

The missiles are falling.
Children perish in bombed
Out churches. an evil
Is being planted in our
Times and the whole
World can see it.
But missiles create lions
From lambs, and bombs
Awaken tigers. They
Never learn, the deluded ones.
They’ll kill hundreds
Of thousands, but
From those defeats
An army of dragons
Will be born. They
Have changed the world,
But not in the way they
Thought. Katya, you
Who live in the slip
stream of empires,
Wake up fast. Grow
Deep, strong and brave.
Join the greater river
Of human destiny.
You can’t fight injustice
And then be unjust to others.
Every day you survive
Bring your liberation
closer. spirits
Of the dead will you on.

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*

The church will be rebuilt
The streets will be made new
There will be festivals in the square.
You will taste grapes from Greece,
Apples from the Hesperides
And sweet oranges from Africa.
And one day your laughter
Will defeat the vacuum missiles
And the bombs will fade
Into the depths of your freedom.
A soft wind from the Bosphorus
Will weave your hair
And the sun-kissed snow
Will temper the grim memories
Of this bomb shelter where you grow.

  • Ben Okri is a novelist and poet. He is the author of Every Leaf a Hallelujah and The Famished Road

  • Voices of Ukraine: writers including Ian McEwan and Karl Ove Knausgaard will read work by Ukrainian authors at a Guardian Live event in London 0n Monday 11 April. The event will also be livestreamed and all profits will be donated to the DEC Ukraine appeal. Book here


www.theguardian.com

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