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Poetry

The Making of Tenderness

By Lyuba Yakimchuk
Translated from Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk
Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk wonders about the production of household goods and tenderness during wartime.
A black and white image of a hairbrush with an engraved handle
Photo by Michèle C., licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Listen to Lyuba Yakimchuk read this poem
 
 
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I try to peel the scotch tape from the windowpane—
so stubborn I can’t claw it off
I stop by the nearest supermarket
for sponges and cleaning gloves
throw in some steel wool
for good measure

at the shelf of hair products
I grab a hairbrush, marked
“Made in Kharkiv”
this one ought to last awhile
as “Kharkiv” means “enduring”
some might say: “eternal”

I have more hairbrushes
than I have hair
yet “Made in Kharkiv” convinces me
it’s not just a brush, but tenderness itself
that is made, that rises within me
like a wave, flooding my body

and where do they make this tenderness
as the war rages on around them?
in the metro? in the bomb shelter?
in a factory?

I walk down the aisle
grab some orange juice from Mykolaiv
tomato paste—the last jar—from Kherson
yogurt from Kremenchuk
but the salt from Bakhmut is still missing
and none has come in from Soledar

we’ll get it back!—the clerk assures me
as if she knows all about geopolitics
doesn’t let me ask another question
then disappears behind a row of ketchup

When I’m done finally cleaning the windows
the radio broadcast
floods all the rooms
rises up to the glassy surfaces
nearly translucent—
tenderness rushing
all the way from the town of the White-White Church
where a missile has been shot down
as it hurtled from the Black-Black Sea
straight at us
where the windowpanes
are no longer secured by Scotch tape
where the window frames
are not barricaded with books
where the windows
are open to the light
and the blast waves

so tonight I will brush my hair with tenderness
tomorrow I’ll have tenderness for breakfast
in the evening I’ll make some tenderness dressing
and if they free the loose tenderness from the occupation
I’ll go ahead and sprinkle it all over

victory is best well-seasoned
never have I known a tenderness so sharp
never at all
but I’ll give it a shot, I promise

June 19, 2022, Kyiv
 

© 2022 by Lyuba Yakimchuk. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2022 by Oksana Maksymchuk. All rights reserved.

English Ukrainian

I try to peel the scotch tape from the windowpane—
so stubborn I can’t claw it off
I stop by the nearest supermarket
for sponges and cleaning gloves
throw in some steel wool
for good measure

at the shelf of hair products
I grab a hairbrush, marked
“Made in Kharkiv”
this one ought to last awhile
as “Kharkiv” means “enduring”
some might say: “eternal”

I have more hairbrushes
than I have hair
yet “Made in Kharkiv” convinces me
it’s not just a brush, but tenderness itself
that is made, that rises within me
like a wave, flooding my body

and where do they make this tenderness
as the war rages on around them?
in the metro? in the bomb shelter?
in a factory?

I walk down the aisle
grab some orange juice from Mykolaiv
tomato paste—the last jar—from Kherson
yogurt from Kremenchuk
but the salt from Bakhmut is still missing
and none has come in from Soledar

we’ll get it back!—the clerk assures me
as if she knows all about geopolitics
doesn’t let me ask another question
then disappears behind a row of ketchup

When I’m done finally cleaning the windows
the radio broadcast
floods all the rooms
rises up to the glassy surfaces
nearly translucent—
tenderness rushing
all the way from the town of the White-White Church
where a missile has been shot down
as it hurtled from the Black-Black Sea
straight at us
where the windowpanes
are no longer secured by Scotch tape
where the window frames
are not barricaded with books
where the windows
are open to the light
and the blast waves

so tonight I will brush my hair with tenderness
tomorrow I’ll have tenderness for breakfast
in the evening I’ll make some tenderness dressing
and if they free the loose tenderness from the occupation
I’ll go ahead and sprinkle it all over

victory is best well-seasoned
never have I known a tenderness so sharp
never at all
but I’ll give it a shot, I promise

June 19, 2022, Kyiv
 

© 2022 by Lyuba Yakimchuk. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2022 by Oksana Maksymchuk. All rights reserved.

виробництво ніжності

з віконного скла знімаю скотч—
пристав, зубами не відгризеш
у найближчий супермаркет вибігаю
за губками й рукавичками
кухонний шкребок про всяк випадок
у кошик кидаю

на стенді з розчісками
беру до рук щітку для волосся
“зроблено в Харкові”—пишуть
значить, довго служитиме, думаю
як Харків—стійке
аж хочеться сказати—вічне

хоч у мене розчісок більше
ніж волосся для них
проте “зроблено в Харкові” переконує
бо ж не розчіску, а ніжність зроблено
яка хвилею піднімається
і розтікається тілом

і де вони роблять цю ніжність
під час бойових дій?
у метро? в укритті?
у цеху?

проходжуся рядами супермаркетовими
та прихоплюю апельсиновий сік з Миколаєва
томатну пасту—останню баночку—з Херсона
йогурт з Кременчука
бахмутської солі все так і нема
із Соледара теж не завозили

—скоро з’явиться, —каже продавчиня
ніби все вона знає про геополітику
не дозволяє перепитати
та завертає за кетчупів ряд

коли відмиваю вікна вдома
радіотрансляція
розливається кімнатами
розтікається поверхнею скла
уже майже чистого
розливається ніжністю
з Білої-Білої Церкви
де збили ракету
що прямувала
з акваторії
Чорного-Чорного моря
сюди прямувала
де вікна
уже не захищені скотчем
де вікна
не закладені цеглою книг
де вікна
пропускають світло
та вибухові хвилі

тож я
сьогодні розчешу волосся ніжністю
завтра з’їм ніжність на сніданок
на вечерю зроблю з ніжністю соус
може звільнять з окупації ніжність сипку—
і я м’ясо до соусу пересолю

перемога повинна бути добре посолена
я ще не пробувала такої жагучої ніжності
зовсім ніколи
але неодмінно, кажу вам, спробую

19 липня 2022, Київ

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