“My Country’s Wounds” by Rimas Uzgiris

Rimas Uzgiris


adapted and redacted from “Prison Chant” by Olena Herasymiuk, serving in a hospital battalion somewhere in Ukraine

He looks at me long.
A kind of longing.
He says

“The most important thing is love.”

He looks at me long.
Oh, his kind of longing.
He says

“The most important thing is
to love thine enemy.”

Who steals—
who even steals
your history
along with your land.

“So don’t shoot.”
He says,
Don’t shoot.”

He says,

“Just lay down your arms—
Just raise your white arms—

Raise them up high
like a chalice, like a prayer,
and then you will know—


As your blood sprinkles fire on the low ground,
you will know
the true taste of love.”


“And there will be no war.”

“And there will be no war.”


I open the window.
Fire flies in on the air.

I cross the square.
Fire fingers the stone.

I walk through the city
and hide like a mole in its holes.

And there it is, beside us—fire.
And here it is, inside us—fire.
I close my eyes and I can see—fire.

My faith, my honor—all fires.
My country’s memory—my bleeding wound.

Cauterize it—with fire.

And I will go on:

I walk through walls
I eat the air
I never stop

Never stop.

from Poets Respond
February 27, 2022


Rimas Uzgiris: “I wanted to write a poem responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I could only think of Olena Hersymiuk’s long poem ‘Prison Chant’ (orig. Ukrainian) that I saw her perform in the Druskininkai Poetic Fall Festival 2021. I reread the English translation and the Lithuanian translation. I decided to take some pieces of the poem, rewrite them, making them into a short lyric fitting the present horrific invasion. The result is much too far removed to be a translation, but I believe it has a piece of the heart of Olena’s poem in it, like a piece of hot shrapnel. I tried to show it to her, but she is at the front lines in a hospital battalion.”

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