I have written a set of poems about the war in Ukraine. The poem in this issue is prompted by a photograph. That an image arrests the attention is commonplace but some images demand greater engagement. They put our imagination to work. They challenge, and call for us to do something. But usually it is too late to help the particular situation which was photographed. What can we do with the feelings that have been aroused?
For this particular poem, A Matter of Degree, I have used a formal rhyme scheme for each stanza: abb/acc/add/aee and each line has four beats. Perhaps this constriction is an attempt to control the horror while I interrogate the event, its aftermath and my own reactions. The first stanza is below.
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A MATTER OF DEGREE:
Bucha, near Kyiv, April 2022
A naked woman in a fur coat, dead.
Condom wrappers on the floor above.
Whatever happened, it wasn’t love.
Just scant words from the news but in my head
they kept on pressing to be understood;
something for me to grasp here, if I could.
The condom-users gone, a woman dead.
But why in fur? A pornographic hook?
She wanted it so much she chose this look:
deluxe seduction, high-class come-to-bed.
Is that the fantasy they made her play:
the lustful woman who leads men astray?