Cover Image for Lord, Tell Me

Lord, Tell Me

Yuliya Musakovska, trans. by Olena Jennings
Issue Three

Yulia Musakovska’s poem about the death of a soldier was written after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The translator Olena Jennings notes that the poem is addressed to ‘you’, thereby encouraging the reader to contemplate their role in the war and share responsibility for it.


Lord, tell me
that you were holding his hand
until the very end,
that you were kneeling beside him,
when the hot summer sun
was pressing him into the ground
like a burning anvil,
when stray dogs were circling around him,
smelling blood,
having forgotten who they are

Tell me you
have been playing
the most beautiful movie for him,
with bright snapshots of his childhood and youth:
here he is rolling down the hill
on a bicycle with its frame too high,
flying and falling headlong into the grass,
painfully bruising himself,
but is laughing so loud
Like he never would again

Here he is cupping
a tender woman’s face
with his hands,
then her shoulders and thighs,
joining his body with hers,
moving until a sweet explosion

Here, in the range of his gun,
he sees armed strangers
on his land,
shrinks into a lump,
and hits the target on first attempt

But he hadn’t had time for more
because you measured it for him
with a horilka glass, so scantily,
that he was bound with embroidered towels,
not for a wedding,
but for agony,
for death
lengthy, like a first-grader’s road home
at night through the woods

And how did it help, Lord
that you were there?…


[Read in Ukrainian here].


Image: Alla Horska, Halyna Zubchenko, Hryhorii Synytsia, Sun, Mosaic at the School no. 5, Donetsk, Public domain.

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