Airfields larger than tribal dominions

I did not expect to live in such an unusual moment.
When the God of thunders and of rocky heights,
The Lord of hosts, Kyrios Sabaoth,
Would humble people to the quick,
Allowing them to act whatever way they wished,
Leaving to them conclusions, saying nothing.
It was a spectacle that was indeed unlike
The agelong cycle of royal tragedies.
Roads on concrete pillars, cities of glass and cast iron,
Airfields larger than tribal dominions
Suddenly ran short of their essence and disintegrated
Not in a dream but really, for, subtracted from themselves,
They could only hold on as do things which should not last.
Out of trees, field stones, even lemons on the table,
Materiality escaped and their spectrum
Proved to be a void, a haze on a film.
Dispossessed of its objects, space was swarming.
Everywhere was nowhere and nowhere, everywhere.
Letters in books turned silver-pale, wobbled, and faded
The hand was not able to trace the palm sign, the river sign, or the sign of ibis.
A hullabaloo of many tongues proclaimed the mortality of the language.
A complaint was forbidden as it complained to itself.
People, afflicted with an incomprehensible distress,
Were throwing off their clothes on the piazzas so that nakedness might call
For judgment.
But in vain they were longing after horror, pity, and anger.
Neither work nor leisure
Was justified,
Nor the face, nor the hair nor the loins
Nor any existence
Czeslaw Milosz

The Expatriates

My dear, it was a moment

to clutch at for a moment

so that you may believe in it

and believing is the act of love, I think,

even in the telling, wherever it went.

In the false New England forest

where the misplanted Norwegian trees

refused to root, their thick synthetic

roots barging out of the dirt to work on the air,

we held hands and walked on our knees.

Actually, there was no one there.

For forty years this experimental

woodland grew, shaft by shaft in perfect rows

where its stub branches held and its spokes fell.

It was a place of parallel trees, their lives

filed out in exile where we walked too alien to know

our sameness and how our sameness survives.

Outside of us the village cars followed

the white line we had carefully walked

two nights before toward our single beds.

We lay halfway up an ugly hill and if we fell

it was here in the woods where the woods were caught

in their dying and you held me well.

And now I must dream the forest whole

and your sweet hands, not once as frozen

as those stopped trees, nor ruled, nor pale,

nor leaving mine. Today, in my house, I see

our house, its pillars a dim basement of men

holding up their foreign ground for you and me.

My dear, it was a time,

butchered from time

that we must tell of quickly

before we lose the sound of our own

mouths calling mine, mine, mine.

-Anne Sexton

I do not mention the war in my birthplace to my six-year-old son but somehow his body knows

My face in his hands

before bed, he asks, if I cut you

in half, will you be even?

I am silent. Expecting

mothers in Mariupol are cut

by invisible hands. Children

cut off from water. Because you have

two eyes + two ears + two cheeks

+ so much hair + your mouth

can have two halves

so you would be even, right?

He wants simple math.

Breath that outlasts

violence. You ÷ 2 =

2 even yous. He isn’t asking

anymore. He is making me

monument. You would still be

if I cut you in half. Small hands

demand a splitting. If you

cut me in half, I tell him,

I’d be dead.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach