Невідомі води[lv]

They watched the world wake-up from history, there was no place they wanted to be.[lvi]

Pockmarks over the sea air. Wisps and black cinders grew up, up, up to the air billowing мистецтво. The mill was the last refuge of Ukraine. Junk was the line. Z Goliath lined up tanks and self-propelled rocket launchers for rent, while the David took the underground. Close to the unknown waters the day the music died.[lvii] Spires multiple of factory smokestacks rising towards the tumble rubble dark air in space.

From above the destruction is immense: metal roofs shattered, cars dispersed as toys across the parking lots, all burning on the streets all mimsy were the borogoves.[lviii] Brick walls stand with nothing to guard. White dross of paper and wooden chaff of some blown maze where all of the denizens lie in wait. Cradles of the new dying fur and an aerie of fluttering wreckage.[lix] Even now, bands of irregulars hurled Molotov beer at the Russians in the corner of the Azov Iron Works. Judge Dredd might know this place: a riptide of industrial destruction next to the seashore with salt wind. The wind blew away the smoke of shells.

It was in these warrens that a few boys waited by the earthen trenches, at a point that was no more than single file dug, opening the sky and slithering in the mud. In the open warehouse, pipes ran everywhere – some drops combed off from somewhere, 20 meters up.

In the clouds a ray of moonlight pierced through. And one of the soldiers stood in the bask of it. With arms like a mother cross. Gentle and serene.

Краплинка.[lx] Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

It was Borysko the first to itch.

He felt the oil on his sweater.

“I needed a parasol every day.” He played with an unlit cigarette and then put it down.

“It is the Champs-Élysées here all the time.” Neither Borysko, nor anyone else, had seen the boulevard in Paris. Though Borysko had tasted Gauloises, then made in France.[lxi]

Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

“It could be the Styx, or the paradise theater.”[lxii] Everyone looked over at Kostyantyn.

But it was Maksym that replied: “Nothing ever goes as planned.”[lxiii]

Borsyko laughed: “Just ask the other side.” There was nothing jovial in the way he said it. Then a wail peaked. His voice was annoyance, or perhaps his annoyance found an outlet.

Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка. Pause. Краплинка!

They all moved out from under the pipe making a bit of noise as they did so. Any awareness of the droplets erased from the boys’ minds. Boys will be The Boys.[lxiv]

Then another figure came up the tranche. He was bolder, once beefier, and bearded but spatter with grime. His name was unimportant, for all called him Starshyna. The boys shivered. The old man softly said: “Do you want to see the блакитний?”[lxv] All agree that they want to see the heavenly blue. Just. One. More. Time.[lxvi] Each one a siren sound, when each one may be your last. “Then keep quiet.” he added in a controlled tone of voice. He then thought a bit and lined them up, but quietly: “First. Second. Third.”[lxvii]

They lined-up, but grumpily.

The man they called Starshyna, old rank for Master Sergeant, was Bohdanko Petrovitch Mikhailov. He was born of a Russian mother and a Ukrainian father, back at a time when which language you spoke was seen as an indicator of your political leanings: Ukrainian was said to lead towards Kyiv and Russian meant towards Moskva. It was horseradish at the time, but much stronger horseradish. As a young boy, he burned at the insults, especially “Ублюдок” which was the equivalent of “Bastard.” He could not even make his mind up, in utero. But he never said “All Apologies”[lxviii] for the mixed-up tongue even over Pennyroyal tea.[lxix] Give Bohdanko a Cohen world every single time not a box of chocolates.[lxx] Everybody knows the dice are loaded with nirvana.[lxxi] He burned, and that is why he joined the far-right to expunge the sound, the sound, the sound of everyone else being gay. Then it was a natural expansion to the Patriot Ukraine to the Azov Regiment in 2014. All-natural and pure. It was the purity of essence that drove Bohdanko because there was so little of it around.[lxxii] A tourniquet of expiry.

Bohdanko looked back one more time. What he saw were kids who probably were not going to see daylight. He saw ghosts in their faces, turned in shades of grey with shrapnel sucking out the blood. Then he went off into the darkness. The trees denude, walls denuded, bodies denude, all along the bomb out streets.

Once he started to leave the boys whispered under their breath: “First. Second. Third.”[lxxiii] Once again, the insults came Bohdanko’s way.

Then 50 meters or so away Bohdanko looked back one more time. What he saw were kids who probably were not going to see daylight. He saw ghosts in their faces, turned in shades of grey. Then he went off farther into the darkness. He watched the plumes from the ships at sea torrenting the coronets skyward in a nascent display streak strophe splendor. He watched every burst, realizing one day he would be in the target zone.

He began talking to himself. “You should not be hard on them. They probably do know the feeling of being a father. Not the way you do. Remember holding up the soft flesh for the first time. So delicate and pure of essence to the core.

He looked out over the sea. Old man was now thin as he was once undefeated but now broken on the inside. An open door was waiting. A harpoon was aiming. He looked around because somewhere he knew a sniper was taking aim.

He knew that it was not him. He remembered the pouch of tobacco. Red was the glow of the match. The first light would be too short. The second light the sniper would aim. The third light – never three on a lucifer.

The shot called true. But it was a RAM grenade. Piercing slicing shell shock. Then all of them were dispatched. At least there was no agony or painpainpain.

Up above the oil went from a dribble to a spurt.

It was a lesson that you learned whatever your persuasion: you think you will live forever, when you’ve done a line or two.[lxxiv] They drill that out of you in basic but, for whatever reason, it crepts back in. It was a warning of universal application: quiet gets one killed last.

Pretty lights, beneath the stars and sea.


Сонце і Слово[lxxv]

It was a bad night. It was dark but the heavens were gutted with stars. To the source of night is its beginning, it is said. This Yevhenvi knew well; cold is worst at sundown.[lxxvi]

The brutal tea with the last remnant of lemon juice was the last sip of food or drink that he would have. His dungarees fell loosely down his legs. He was sleek and slender before the war; now he was emaciated. He hunched beneath a cement wall. It was now open-air but that was recent. All was messy and stained.

There was a towel that he used as a tablecloth and another chair that held up the other piece of the table. Formica held with aluminum rods. He had taken this from a dead man, with the mug, in the early hours of yesterday morning. Before the sun came up.

There was at least a light coming up from a flashlight. He warmed his hand on the mug. It was close to Kyivean sky but not quite – he was in the wastes of Kharkiv. Take the corner and go on to midnight. If he lived, he would write it in an American Notebook. The last thing he had purchased in New York upon that January. After that, it was fire from the Ashes.

It had been a long week today. Dry as dust. This he knew though he was scant 20 years young with short dirty blonde hair shocked up straight.

It began in the morning: he was sleeping at the last stop on the metro: Oleksiivske. He somehow awoke, probably to boots a-stepping brash. He took the greasy satchel and split because he knew a sealed-off exit he knew. He lowered himself down and saw a Russian infantryman with his gun out searching for hostages to the back. Yevhenvi carefully wiped his sleeve across his nose to clear away the bespattered snot. He still could not breathe, and his mouth strolled shut. There was a kind of hush without breathing. There was glass that needed another word other than strewn. Shatter implied an order. He shook his head. There was some kind of gash on the back that had bled and bled but not the third bled, because that would be sensed by the face.

He crouched behind a charcoal large stuffed bear. He smiled – there was no coverage here. Only the obscurement of his body. Soma, if not the Parry Homeric sense.[lxxvii]

The Russian infantryman looked at him but did not see him. Yevhenvi felt tightness over his belly as the muzzle strewed across. Hairs on his abdomen elevated as if expecting to have been shot. Maybe a veteran would have known to aim first – but not some fresh from дедовщина – the reign of the grandfathers.[lxxviii] Somehow this eased this torso. He watched the Russian recruit look down the metro, obviously deciding whether to go down into the sullen smoke. Maybe Yevhenvi sensed a decision without decisiveness directed the recruit to move onward.

That tightened the groin up again – which way was the recruit going? Yevhenvi watched the google strewn face. There was no answer from the muscle that gripped the face. The eyeballs contracted into the million-meter stare. The recruit turned and as he did so a barrage of three propelled him backwards. Then a Ukrainian guardsman stood up out of cover.

He flipped his thumb at Yevhenvi.

After that, he wandered east, to where he used to live. High towers fill with stairs all the same. He lived there in a tiny, small studio where we could look at the hostel. They were people worse off than himself – without books to read and without a laptop to scour the world. Now he was worse off than even the hostelers.

He used to visit one – Mrs. Gradenko.[lxxix] He remembered her tall tales about how in the old days they planned new ways of cheating.[lxxx] He pretended to be fascinated. Really, he had nothing else to do but look out at the crest with spruce trees among the apartment buildings and watch the gas flame shoot up between the black soot of missiles. He then set his course for her room, even though it was brown. He knew he had not to ask for anything but tap water because she had only crackers and cat food. Without a cat.

He got to the space between the apartments and hostel with its degraded cement circle and scrubby short grass. No one had mowed it. A Sunflower grew wild and like a Solar Phoenix gulped down the light to the temple of the sun.[lxxxi]

But there he saw a fire 5 floors up and he took a large leap through the green ladder and outer door and up the double-folded concrete stairs. There were smoke and burning scraps everywhere in just a few short seconds. An electricity flash had floomed.

As he came up, he saw a firefighter coming down through the gloom with ghastly daylight punching through the long windows. Everything was held together by the bars. He was doffed with a heavy mask and carrying a body. The body had a grey dress and wiry grey silver hair – then Yevhenvi realized it was the remains of Mrs. Gradenko.[lxxxii] Her left half of the face was blacked, and her left eyeball hung out by the tendons turning blood red.

The firefighter pushed Yevhenvi’s starved frame against the wall and moved clunky floorward. One more statistic.

He got out – he did not remember how. Where to go?

Yevhenvi then wandered back to his newfound abode. He saw a thin old man try to strike a match to get a fire started.

But the lecturing gene starts Yevhenvi off: “Don’t do that things are too flammable here.”

The old man looked up at him. “You have had a bad day. So, what if I burn us to death? No loss for the living. That belly is mithering.”

“You are wrong. Every man is more precious than gold. I have seen three facemasks today, and I am not one of them. ”

It was a good day.


The lunatic is on the floor.[lxxxiv] In the hospital of the insane. But who is to say what sane is? A war convulsed. Everyone else is inmates from an asylum.[lxxxv]

The lunatic’s name, when she had a real one, was forgotten. Now she lies on her back staring at the white ceiling. It was quiet place: Затишок.[lxxxvi]

Outside, an attenuated woman watched, but not long, because there was the outer door to answer. Her name was Daryna.[lxxxvii] The woman was the only one here. The button said she was the head nurse. There was the throng of clanging. Got to keep the lunatics on the path, both inside and outside. She weaved through patients who were free to go about through the halls. She knew not to skitter as she turned the corner. Instead, she changed to a plodd, rather thandashed.[lxxxviii] If the patients and herself were going to be killed, a few minutes would not deaden relationships.

Pressure is what the nurse felt.[lxxxix] Pressure to keep all the live alive and living. It was the pressure of having loaded guns to your face.[xc] It was a tap-dance as a crusade.[xci] What does it mean?[xcii]

She entered the reception area and looked out the door. She did not recognize the 3 men, but she saw the Latin alphabet on various points on the grey-brown jumpsuits. She decided to open it.

The tallest man, white with stubble and jet-black hair spoke first: “Do you speak English?”

She nodded; English was now the lingua franca of the civilized world. She learned it in Lyons.

He continued: “We are from France 24 on the English side of the fence. Can we come in?”

The three men looked in intensely. The only thing that surprised her was one of them was dark from Africa – which was not seen in Ukraine by most – it had actually been a subterranean hint to trust. The shortest man had beside his hips a TV camera and a pair of mikes. He was also the one looking at everything. The debris made a statement.[xciii] The nurse kept the key to the inner door – patients would be a horror in the room.

She gestured to come in. Inside there was debris, and shattered pictures slung through the reception area. There was a fragmented glass in the room where once upon a time, the on-duty nurse directed the flow of traffic and dispensed the meds. That was years and years ago in February. The glass had been shattered the first night along with the staff resigning en masse.

She then composed herself, with the grace under pressure that she had made it her practice since the conflict. It had not needed any distant early warning to sound the red alert.[xciv]

“What may I do for you? The patients do not give interviews and I am short-staffed at the moment.”

The tallest man looked a little sheepish and started, seemingly off on a tangent: “We came to look at the carnage the invading force left.”

“My concern is the hospital which I have to keep running. Please hurry up.”

The cameraman interrupted: “We saw purple coffins over which the mourners were praying.”

The nurse said: “The first thing is to bury the dead.” She looked at her large crystal watch. It did not fit well.

The tallest man continued: “They told us about Kateryna who was in her.”

“Yes. I say it again: the patients do not give interviews.”

The tall man said: “We just want a picture.”

The cameraman said: “From outside.”

This, though none of the visitors knew it, placed the nurse under pressure. Time had come to make the call. “Come with me.” She glanced into a looking glass on the table.[xcv] She saw that she’s not a child anymore.[xcvi]

She unlocked the inner sanctum et sanctorum and waited for the trio to walk in.

She turned to them mechanically.

“First, I must thank you for not killing or raping us. I fear that you might be Russians in disguise.”

The tall man said: “We have heard this before.”

She then plodded up the stairs and the crew flowed her. They moved to the third floor down the hall past many doors. Each with a small window with steel grates. In most of the there was a patient in some sort of disarray. Each was different but all the same.

Then she stopped in front of a door. It was no different from the rest.

But the patient inside was different: instead of wearing the white habit of the rest of the patients, Kateryna was in a deep blue dress, frilly in its attire. She was bent down on her knees and her lips moving to a prayer. She was fatter than most but then that was not saying much. Her cheeks were sunken. Clearly, she was on an enforced diet. She did not move except for once to glance out the small window in the door. Then she resumed praying.

The cameraman focused his light reader and then picked up his broadcaster. He then took a series of pictures by the dozen. He told the tall man: “It is good.”

The tall man turned to the nurse and asked: “What can we do for you?”

She thought carefully.

“Call the people at the center for psychiatric care in Kyiv and tell them to send the normal requirements to take away the patients when it is safe. Tell them we have friends here to feed and care for them, but the time grows extremely limited.”

“We can do that. You will transfer them?”

She looked down at her light grey shoes then looked up.

“No, I will be going with the other patients.”