If you burn the Kyiv library,
not the one at Alexandria, they’ll forgive you . . .
And the black snow and the white crows—
they are already in flight from Chornobyl.
Kyiv, Kyiv, Kyiv—is not Athens.
But here, too, are Mongols and Saracens.
And the black ashes of Ukraine.
And smoke from Dante’s tercets.
It’s snowing in Koncha. A recruit
of freedom and honesty
is bowing his head and weeping.
To burn a manuscript is to try to prove
that we have never existed in the world.
And what bitter trouble you have gotten into—
and how silent history will be about it all.
Already manuscripts are burning,
and the snow from Chornobyl is flying,
and a woman is sowing seeds of marigolds
in the middle of a fierce winter,
and suicidal birds are crying
so that we will remain. As a people . . .
Translated from Ukrainian by Svetlana Ischenko and Russell Thornton