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Chard deNiord: What Can Anyone Say

In memory of the Ukrainian children, parents, and civilians who have been murdered by Russian troops and Prime Minister Putin during Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine 


What can anyone say after seeing 

that picture on the front page 

of the Sunday NYT today? 

How can anyone attend his or her house 

of worship and not feel 

that he or she should pray, 

“Dear God, don’t let me ever hear 

someone say I was spared because 

You watched over me.”

“No,” says the refugee who just arrived

from the front, “You were spared 

because you were lucky the car swerved

out of the way or you ducked

just in time to avoid the shrapnel 

that killed the man behind you.”

Or what else? 

Ananke’s list is long.

But when you see a mother 

and her two children lying dead 

beside her on a road after being shot 

by a sniper you have to know 

that people are horribly free

to damn themselves on Earth,

which is to say, “God damn the sniper

who did this of his own free will 

without any help from Ananke 

and God damn the heart that forsook itself

for what? Its very own loss?” 

As for what never to say, just this: 

“He wasn’t thinking, because he was, he was.”

If we’re all supposedly connected 

as the prophets say, what razor 

can You give me, Lord, to sever me 

from that monster who looks too much 

like me even from a distance 

to appear as someone else at first? 

There is no consolation or understanding 

or reason or humanity in murder

and infanticide, which are crimes 

by the same recidivist with a different face

who’s risen from the dead to prove 

that Hell exists on Earth 

and nowhere else 

as an atrocity like this that survivors witness

then suffer for loving their beloveds so much

and being so good.

Copyright 2022 Chard deNiord

Chard deNiord’s many books include In My Unknowing (Pitt, 2020). He is the former Poet Laureate of Vermont.

IRPIN, UKRAINE – MARCH 07: Residents of Irpin flee heavy fighting via a destroyed bridge as Russian forces entered the city on March 07, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. Yesterday, four civilians were killed by mortar fire along the road leading from Irpin to Kyiv, which has been a key evacuation route for people fleeing Russian forces advancing from the north. Today, Ukraine rejected as “unacceptable” a Russian proposal for a humanitarian corridor that leads from Kyiv to Belarus, a Russian ally that was a staging ground for the invasion. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

4 comments on “Chard deNiord: What Can Anyone Say

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    March 11, 2022

    “Hell exists on Earth

    and nowhere else” 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. contact lorrainehenrielins.com
    March 10, 2022

    …and another. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  3. melpacker
    March 10, 2022

    As we consider and appreciate this poem and condemn the atrocities committed, we must also look back (not too far, unfortunately) and examine our responses, if any, to the incessant bombings of non-whiite peoples by our own government over many decades. Our never ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our support for Saudi Arabia’s use of war-crime munitions against Yemenis, and, of course, our failure to welcome millions of non-white refugees who fled from our wars and died in the oceans or on the shores of European nations. Yes, the Ukrainian people need our full support, but I can onlly hope that in doing so, we examine our past as well and resolve “never again”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      March 10, 2022

      Exactly! Thanks, Mel. Yes, our support for the Ukrainian people should ideally extend to the Somalian people, the Salvadoran people, the Palestinian people, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

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