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Monday, April 11, 2022


by Claire Matturro

“Pregnant women moved from Mariupol hospital were sheltering in bombed theatre.” —Sky News, March 26, 2022. Photo: Mariana Vishegirskaya, an injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

At first we acted brave as we hurried
Inside the theater to flee mortars.
We had food and water, but I worried
Heavy with child if I’d make the border
If buses didn’t come. We sang bold songs,
then our food ran out, the water was gone.
Missiles crushed the walls, so we ran for trees,
as if feeble branches could stop the siege.
My baby kicks as an old man stopping
By me in the forest offers toffee.
He says “don’t chew it. It is the last one.
Let it melt slowly upon your tongue.
Chocolate and mint, a bit of sweet cream,
like the bold songs we used to bravely sing.” 

Author's Note: This sonnet is a heart-felt response to recent news stories about the continuing ordeal of people in Mariupol. The first eight lines are based upon direct news accounts—including the shelling of the theater where many took refuge and the wait for the humanitarian relief via the Red Cross buses. However, the last six lines, after the turn in the sonnet about the man offering the pregnant woman the last piece of candy, are wholly imagined. I wanted to show something of the kindness and courage of the Ukrainian people, which is so often reflected in news stories, and to offer at least a hint of hope. 

Claire Matturro has been a journalist, a lawyer, and a legal writing teacher at Florida State University and University of Oregon. She is the author of seven novels, including a legal thriller series published by HarperCollins, and is the co-author of a recent novel. She is an associate editor at Southern Literary Review and lives in Florida.