A square clock against a pink floral wallpaper in Ukraine
Jerome Sessini / Magnum

In the Hospital Rooms of My Country

A poem for Sunday

Letters of the alphabet go to war
clinging to one another, standing up, forming words no one wants to shout,
sentences that are blown by the mines in the avenues, stories
shelled by multiple rocket launches.

A Ukrainian word
is ambushed: Through the broken window of
the letter д other countries watch how the letter і
loses its head, how the roof of the letter м
falls through.

The language in a time of war
can’t be understood. Inside this sentence
is a hole—no one wants to die—no one
speaks. By the hospital bed of the letter й
lies a prosthesis it’s too shy to use.
You can see the light through the clumsily sewn-up holes
of the letter ф—the soft sign has its tongue torn out
due to disagreements regarding
the etymology of torture. There is too much alphabet
in the hospital rooms of my country, too much, too
much alphabet, no place to stick an apostrophe; paint falls off
the walls, showering us with words incomprehensible
like men who, in wartime, refuse to speak.