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Updated: Mar 11, 2022

I do not know when my family came to Ukraine

for how many centuries they stayed

for how much DNA lies buried in cemeteries with half-closed gates

names half-heartedly scrubbed away by time

but I do know when they left

and I do not want to center myself in a conflict

that my family fled a long time ago

but see

they still call me odessa

and so my skin still bears the history

of every ancestor that wept on those streets

they still call me odessa

so we can remember that when borders change

we will not forget

pale of settlement

black sea

this is my homeland once removed

this is my homeland removed once

I am still tied there

if yet by my name

if yet by the intense yearning

I have to call it some contour of home

some contour of homeland

and so my heart breaks in a mirror neuronal gasp

as explosions pour down

and people huddle close

I am still tied there

I am there

in a city I’ve never visited

I am there when war comes

this is not yours

I want to scream

bedraggled by the many many miles between me

and me


I try to recall ghosts of memories from the time before the veil

scratch open consciousness and revisit the commotion of my ancestors

where would they be?

huddled in metro stations

fleeing in cars

dying on city streets

my heart splinters at the weight of the time folding

and my arms tremble in their feat of extension

could a country be held in the circumference of my arms?

could a city be held in the circumference of my name?

I have found myself writing many poems about this homeland of mine

that my great grandfather tried to scrub from his skin and from his voice

I don’t know anywhere like where the black sea meets the land

and my soul meets its rest

because I am Ukrainian by blood and by bloodshed

and I want to unwind my DNA to see it whole again

but I wait, a world apart, body trembling

as I pray in these stanzas

when they call me odessa

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Odessa: your purpose unfolding, bringing awareness to the rest of us. Powerful poem, and I was led here by your incredibly wise Tiffany Shlain: both of you continue to inspire me. Thank you!

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