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poetry A Guest From War

Ukrainian refugee poet Oksana Maksymchuk depicts life in exile as “an endless cellar/that’s now her mind.”

A Guest from War

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a bed we set up
on the floor
in the hallway, where the walls
are most solid
with no windows to burst
she rolls into a ball
and falls & falls

not hearing her own sobs
she got so used to them

Packing and hauling bags
throwing bags over train tracks
suitcases and small bundles
of severed arms, hands
straining to sign
some desperate last message:
the name of a loved one
instructions for making
Grandma’s heirloom pie

In an endless cellar
that’s now her mind, she expands
testing the possible exits
with the outer limits
of her own body, exposed

bare flesh now
no skin

Oksana Maksymchuk is the author of poetry collections Xenia and Lovy in the Ukrainian. Her English-language poems appeared in AGNI, The Irish Times, The Paris Review, The Poetry Review, and other journals. She co-edited Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, and co-translated Apricots of Donbas by Lyuba Yakimchuk and The Voices of Babyn Yar by Marianna Kiyanovska. Oksana holds a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern University.


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