February. They left the houses
Crouching and trying their way, just on their own way, just how one could feel
Just how the tears make it into the promised land
Rare and fair, all similar if touched and different in height.
And now, gathered in a grove, they are here
Shrugging the way back home, they rise here and grow, rise and grow
Beside of His cheekbones’ highways, in the thick of good woods, by the tiny doors
In the arms of willow branches drum buds, like long-legged plump children, are being held
And stray dogs leapt to lick His icy thumbs, cheeks and nose
They rub his knees with thick fur, carrying no fear
Caressing His lathered neck like honeybees sucking nectar
And when He, who knows the beginnings, slows down his silent pace
They beg him for at least a stone
Instead He blesses them with grain and bread
They beg him for at least a snake, at least a snake in this dusk
Instead He blesses their boats and cradles – with fish and men, with fish and men
When He close his heavy eyelids, they put crosses on those winged eyes
Here she is, among the crowd, they hurry her up: Just ask him, just ask!
Hook your lips on a hasp, don’t gasp. Just ask.
Dogs whine for a whit, donkey pleads and you, please, ask
Look, flock flying back and cry… those ducks, they ask!
And you? Mouth shut like a clam. They say: Just ask
Don’t stare, go ahead… breath a word
Look at you, nothing to look at, oh, God, they cry, just ask!
February. She stands her heart soaked in a sooty thick stream
Keeps a grey-eyed fish inside, keep a grey-cheeked sun in a palm
Dim, like a cloud, heavy with water
If only she knew what to ask for: how to fall down, where to go…
What she is to ask for? How to fall down? Where to go? Too many days to spring
She keeps her mouth shut, full of water, ashamed of her tears
As if clothes being ripped with her skin
Mindful not to hurt Him with her flood
Mindful that her wave of wish might spear a rib
What to ask for… He already knows: her scolds, GULAG,
Holocaust, lynching and shelter.
He also knows that the love she holds is His
He also knows what she would ask if she could talk to the God
Thus, even she doesn’t ask, or does, but not right
He finds her in the depth of the streams, in the gravest sins
He picks her up bails her out – just simple like that, holding her in his arms
He will stand for her at any court, and justify,
And then he will teach her what he has taught none, to step firm on the Earth, like one walks on water
Translated from Ukrainian by Marta Hosovska
Iryna Mostepan (Melnyk) was born on October 12, 1987 in the village of Oleksandriia, Rivne Region. Since 2019, she has lived in the city of Irpin, Kyiv region, and works as a teacher at the Ukrainian Humanities Lyceum of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Iryna is a member of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine.
Her books include Words sewn for centuries, Verbarium, Illustrated poetry, Caring bread, Artbook, Windows among others.
Poems by Iryna Mostepan (Melnyk) have been broadcasted on the Ukrainian National Radio in the program – Culture.