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Monday, March 07, 2022


A Correspondence

by Phyllis Klein, Kathy Les, and Renée Schell

KYIV, Ukraine — Makeshift roadblocks have been installed throughout this capital to impede the movements of Russian troops snaking toward the city in a convoy about 15 miles away. On some strategic thruways, Ukrainians have parked trams and buses to restrict driving access. Checkpoints to inspect IDs have also been established to root out would-be saboteurs. “We have a lot of presents” for the Russians, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an interview. “It’s not sweet. It’s very painful.” The extended 40-mile parade of Russian armored vehicles, tanks and towed artillery headed from the north on a path toward Kyiv has both alarmed and befuddled watchers of this expanding war. It’s not just its sheer size. It’s also because for days, it has not appreciably been moving. U.S. officials attribute the apparent stall in part to logistical failures on the Russian side, including food and fuel shortages, that have slowed Moscow’s advance through various parts of the country. They have also credited Ukrainian efforts to attack selected parts of the convoy with contributing to its slowdown. Still, officials warn that the Russians could regroup at any moment and continue to press forward. —The Washington Post, March 7, 2022

Dear Friends,

I send my love this spring as every
day a new trauma comes
to bury us just as we climb out 
of yesterday’s avalanche. Even here in 
the flatlands, sidewalks seem to turn
into wet clay, our feet leaving prints
that suck my shoes into glue-like cement.
My heart muscles out its love 
to your hearts as I struggle 
to take a walk, no way to avoid those
cruel neighborhoods of bad news. 
How bad news molders in the streets of tar
and disappointment. Flat tires
and tire irons so easy to weaponize.
Trees blighted, only crows left.
Love watches a plague of human heartlessness
trying to destroy it. Love begs 
for combat boots, stands on the fire escape
outside its tenement of low income love-fires.
I say, Let them burn. To kindle what is lovely 
I send you them, the embers.



Whose Spring?

Lately I wonder 
for whose sake 
the flowers bud, 
the trees open. 
I watch the oak tree 
two houses away, 
how it plumes wider 
a little more each day, 
its pent-up exhilaration 
to burst forth, readiness 
for another year 
of leafy dress. 

Two continents away, 
a 40-mile convoy 
of armored trucks 
stalled in unison, greedy 
to penetrate a capital city 

that not two weeks ago 
populated itself with people 
awaiting their next spring, 
a chance to shed 
the heavy cold,
wet nights. 
Now those nights 
are filled with embers, 
blasts big enough,
red enough to douse 
whatever hope 

was had for a new year. 
Whose war is this anyway. 
Whose spring? 



Sister Cities

U.S. Sister Cities Sever Relationships to Counterparts in RussiaUkraine—Bloomberg, March 4, 2022

Whose spring? 
Whose war?
Here we planted a new 
word for spring:
A word I don’t want 
to taste in my mouth.
When did that appear?
Daily, hourly
wherever you look
fear is weaponized
water is weaponized
tire irons weaponized
words always.

Here, our spring
promise of ranunculus
sky of water vapor
sky of plumes
sky of smoke

A 40-mile convoy stalled, 
headlights and taillights
a rifle barrel’s width apart
a push, a threat, a smack.
There, even the roads 
are weaponized 
not our hearts
never let it be our hearts

There, hearts are strewn 
on the road 
like spent bullets.
When do we learn that there 
contains here?


Phyllis Klein, Kathy Les, and Renée Schell are widely published poets connected through a poetry crafting group meeting on Zoom. They live in Palo Alto, San Jose, and Sacramento, CA respectively.  This conversation poem is one of many collaborations they hope to have.