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Kolot – Poems about the war in Ukraine

Alison Stone was inspired to write poetry by her grandmother, Connecticut poet and painter Janet Cohn z”l.

“My grandmother was passionate about politics and important causes, but she kept this passion separate from her artistic works,” notes Stone. “For years, I did the same, but then I realized that, even though it’s easy to write bad political poems and hard to write good ones, I had to try.”

She wrote “Self-Portrait March 2022” and her latest poem, “Russian Soldiers Plant Landmines in Ukrainian Cemeteries.,” about the war in Ukraine.

To date, Stone, a licensed psychotherapist with private practices in New York City and Nyack, New York, has published seven full-length collections, including They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin Award. She was Writer in Residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. 

See Stone’s work at www.stonepoetry.org  www.stonetarot.com.

Self-Portrait March 2022

by Alison Stone

Warring nations mingle in my blood –
Russia, Germany, Ukraine, all the great-
great somebodies who boarded ships
pulled toward America’s promise-paved streets.
Their passports all stamped Jew.

My heart’s a non-fungible token,
encrypted. Needing heat.
My eyes hold boat rides on rivers
through glittering cities.
My finger’s locked as though stuck on a gun.

Daily, my legs take me the same loop –
kitchen, bathroom, office, street.
The mountain dwarfs me as expected.
My hands reach for passing dogs.

Clients tell me their dreams –
wolves, staircases, snow, an open window,
terror jumbled with desire. Symbols giving form
to need. Outside, premature crocuses
open dumbly, unaware of the forecasted storm.

The news offers its collection of horrors.
How easily beauty is bombed into meme.
What are you doing about it?
the first spring birds chirp, and no matter
what I stammer, a fat brassy crow
caws not enough.

Russian Soldiers Plant Landmines in Ukrainian Cemeteries

by Alison Stone

Despite landmines, mourners visit the dead.
Strategy is a cold, barren thing.
Which commands must be obeyed, which ignored?
An army is made up of people.

Strategy is a cold, barren thing,
measuring success in numbers of stopped hearts.
An army is made up of people,
some generous, some mean. All want to live.

Measure success in numbers of stopped hearts.
Count the empty places at tables –
Some generous, some mean, all people want to live.
Children starving in basements eat their hope.

Count the empty places at tables,
the houses bombed to blood-streaked rubble.
Children starving in basements eat their hope.
How inconvenient is the call to help?

So many houses bombed to blood-streaked rubble.
Despite landmines, mourners visit the dead.
How inconvenient is the call to help?
Which commands do we obey and which ignore?

Chill

by Alison Stone

Outside our thick locked door, the air grows cold.
Fall plays songs of loss. For an encore, cold.

Cascade of tangerine and neon pink –
The dying sun departs in splendor. Cold

nights for the too-long married. The furnace
breaks. More than metaphor – the air grows cold.

Poe writes his dead love back to him, despite
the tiresome raven’s Nevermore, cold

and final. Waves swallow the sand. Sun sets.
How long will stubborn swimmers ignore cold?

The power of love versus the might of
power. Who’s stronger, Venus or Thor? Cold,

hot, cold, hot — Our wounded planet revolts.
Flood. Drought. Plastic-filled whales wash ashore. Cold.

Grandma’s crooked fingers, Cossack-blue eyes.
Gold chai she always wore. The air grows cold

near gravestones. Too late to learn her secret
Anatevka dreams. East wind brings more cold.

Ukrainian bride strips off her wedding
gown, puts on the uniform of war. Cold

metal in her hand. Poets sip the Green
Fairy, enter delicious stupor, cold.

The old unfold chairs and umbrellas. Teens
sprawl tanning on the sand, all languor, cold

beauty.  Truckers wave swastika flags. Books
are burned in churches. The hungry implore cold

gods. In Stone’s empress daydream, two laws: Have
mercy. Plant seeds before the air grows cold.

Main Photo: Alison Stone

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