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Monday, June 13, 2022


by Bonnie Naradzay
                with a line from Richard Wilbur

Russia is likely to seize control of the entire Luhansk region of Ukraine within a few weeks, a senior U.S. defense official said, as Ukraine sustains heavy casualties and its supplies of ammunition dwindle. Such a move would leave Russia short of its war aims of capturing all of Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. But it would still amount to a win for Russian forces and create a new de facto front line that could last for some time. —The Washington Post, June 11, 2022. Photo: Black smoke and dirt rise from Severodonetsk during battle between Russian and Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region June 9. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

After reading how the internet takes 
us into a circle of doom because it keeps
us in the recent past, after recursively wading 
into news again about the dark tides of war, 
the brutal devastation in Ukraine, 
the pleas that we not forget their pain,
I thought of Xerxes' bridge of pontoons
over the Hellespont after Darius, stopped 
by the battle at Marathon, failed to subjugate 
the Greeks.  The pontoon bridge collapsed. 
Xerxes, after having his engineers beheaded,
commanded the waters to be lashed
three hundred times.  Shackles were thrown 
into the sea for symbolic effect,
which makes me think of Herodotus,
who changed the meaning of "barbarian”
because of what Xerxes did.
Here I stray again to the continuous loop
of the near past, when Russian invaders 
built a "pontoon" bridge over a river 
not once but twice, with predictable results.
During the Persian invasion at Thermopylae,
that narrow pass, Xerxes asked the Greeks 
to surrender, and Leonidas dared him 
to come take their weapons.
The valiant 300 fought to their deaths,
hoping to buy time for reinforcements to arrive.  
I am thinking of the fighters who were trapped 
in Mariupol, woefully outnumbered; 
of those surrounded now in east Ukraine, 
buying time for the delivery of weapons 
and missile systems they must beg for
in that endless caravan of death.
How quickly we recoil from the page,
leaving us dumbstruck and with an ache.

Bonnie Naradzay’s poems and essays have appeared in AGNI, New Letters (Pushcart Nomination), RHINO, Kenyon Review Online, Tampa Review, Florida Review Online, EPOCH, Episcopal Theological Review, Pinch (Pushcart nomination), Birmingham Review, Colloquy, and others. While in graduate school, she participated in a class taught by Robert Lowell: “The King James Bible as English Literature.”  In 2010, she won the University of New Orleans MFA Program’s Prize: a month’s stay with Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary, in her castle in the Italian Dolomites.  While there, she enjoyed hearing cuckoos, having tea with Mary, hiking in the Dolomites, and viewing the suit Ezra Pound wore when he lived there.  
For many years she has convened poetry salons with homeless people in day shelters and with retirement community residents in Washington DC.