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Saturday, February 25, 2023


by Suzanne Morris

Fighters from Ukraine’s Karpatska Sich Battalion in a church on Dec. 25 that was destroyed by shelling and reportedly looted by Russian forces during their occupation, in the Lyman district in the Donetsk region. Credit: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The Church is torn from
limb to limb

daylight flooding through
gaping holes in hallowed walls

Russian spies posing as
monks and priests and nuns 

and at least one Ukrainian abbot 
convicted of espionage.

So I wonder about
the soldier in combat gear

entering through
an arched door

wrested from its hinges,
glass blown out

his heavy boots crunching
on the pulverized pieces

littering a floor
thickly layered with shell dust

below a magisterial portrait of
Jesus praying in the

Garden of Gethsemane,
looking heavenward

as if to beseech God for
an explanation for this

violent schism between two branches
that grew from the same root,

for the shell holes that
pock the background of the

star-speckled sky
above his haloed head

and the rock he kneels against
to pray.

Jewel-toned paraments
embroidered in gold

are strewn about the floor
and flung against

the high upholstered back of a
filigreed chair

while the Virgin Mary
enfolded in deep blue and rose

ponders in her heart
from high above:

For this, my son died on the cross?

Nearby, the wooden altar
with elaborate detail

is deeply scarred, panels missing
its top piece knocked awry

and all around, sections of
towering, frescoed walls blown out,

the portraits adorning them ripped,
iconography broken and dangling.

The soldier’s head is bowed
as though he has escaped

for a few moments of prayer
within this tattered sanctuary.

Or, perhaps he has come to
search for evidence of treason:

lists of people to be killed,
wads of illicit cash,

pamphlets of Russian propaganda
to be traced

so that justice
can be served.

And all the while the
raging war

hurtles into its second year... 

Suzanne Morris is a novelist and a poet. Her poems have appeared in online poetry journals including The New Verse News, The Texas Poetry Assignment, Stone Poetry Quarterly, The Pinecone Review, and Emblazoned Soul Review.