This is not poetry
This is not poetry
I did not want to write.The deadline for tomorrow’s reading approached, and I promised myself to wite for an hour. One hour, I said to myself, was nothing. If I do not write a piece of prose, I would write a poem. I used poems as cheap quick fix when I got lazy before, and why not today.
There are a lot of poems written about the War. All kinds of wars. Writing about a war today, of course, would be a suitable subject. Perfect for scoring bonus attention on actuality, and if I chose to write about a war in the form of a poem, I would certainly save some time.
A story about my grandma’s and grandpa’s War would serve a good introduction from where I would zoom into the actual state of things using some facts from the News feed. From the stories I remember about WWII it was all about the bombs, killings and piople refuge. My grandma told me about body pieces hanging on trees. They saw them hanging like fruit on trees after they crawled out from the shelters. These were pieces of people who did not manage to reach shelters, and their remains were unrecognisable. None of the living knew which part could possibly belong to whom, whether they were their own relatives or neighbours or just someone they did not know at all. After a bombing the locals simply calculated who was missing and reported them “missing people” to the authorities.
My grandma told me that her brother was a “missing person” . The letters from soldiers in the front normally arrived in a three-corner folded piece of paper. The country was saving on paper and soldiers wrote letters and folded them, so they looked like triangles. My grandma knew that those who received the triangles were the lucky ones, the triangle-folded papers were letters from the living soldiers.
The letter she received about her brother came in an envelope. It was a gesture of honour from the government to announce the deceased soldier to the family. The family received an enveloped card with the name, but with the exception of that in the column of date and place of burial it was stating “missing without trace”.
Grandma told many stories about death, hunger and violence which were brutally truthful but would definitely not provide me with the proper material for a poem. My memory flashed back to Riga in 1991, when I was excited for Latvia gaining independence from the Soviet Union and the political events of crushing the old state collided with crushing of the moral norms. When the iron curtain was removed taking away the fear of the threat of nuclear bomb explosion, it opened for threaths of destroying the nuclear values of society. People's parts were not hanging on trees , they were found in different locations of the city. Mostly young girls who did not return home after late night clubbing or opened the doors to the deathly friends who knew they would never get punished for their crimes since all the societal security was concentrated on supporting the new political order of the liberated state.
I just did not want to write, and tell my truth. The truth anybody would want to hear would be a commonly accepted truth - generic and suitable to serve at the coffee table with the evening News feed on the wall screen. This would show the Ukrainian refugees met by family members on the border with Poland with the poetry of happy tears running down the cheeks.
I asked my grandpa’s neview, who is my distant uncle, if they managed to flee on the save distance before the bombing started in Kiev and the message beeped back: “Yes. We are in the Western part of Ukraine close to the border”. I wondered what one could bring along in a little car together with two teenage children, an eighty-six-old sister of my grandpa who is my uncle’s mother, his wife and her own mother of seventy six.
A few hours after my uncle’s message, we spoke on the phone and he asked me joyfully: “Do you remember the teddy bear you gave us? My youngest does not leave alone for a second. It is here next to him on his bed”. The teddy bear, untorn and warmed by the heart of the child in the transition between two paradigms and two epochs.
This is the truth I did not want to write. The truth which is not ornamented by literary devices of metaphors and allegories. This is the piece that will never become a poem of a lazy writer who wants to reach the deadline.
March 8, 2022
Helena Magidas Johansen