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“I’m lucky my parents were peasants”
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Published: Thu Aug 08 2019
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“I’m lucky my parents were peasants”

Translated from the Ukrainian by Askold Melnyczuk and the author


I’m lucky my parents were peasants
sturdy stock and stout bones
had they been like me, they wouldn’t have made it
had they been like me, I wouldn’t be here

on roads where ashes roil with dust
where bodies bloom in the rain
where the dead blossom of youth
froze for days, and for a few hours

no one was old,
the world was all wounded youths
why did my grandparents survive, why?
was it because they felt the burden of generations

of the unborn, of those to come
in five, in thirty, in fifty years?
. . . and those who died, they were like
pruned branches, light and free

. . . and only on my father’s side
the cancer of legacy
women’s tears like women’s fists
proud heads which always fall first

these were women unused to standing for long
because the veins on their legs exploded
who were unable to weep long hours
without going blind, or mad

you had to know how to do everything
tend wounds bake bread dig trenches
nobody taught them
they had to learn for themselves

and they wrote poems—not like before
shorter now, nearly wordless
because they no longer had metaphors
only the clay and the sun


Oksana Lutsyshyn, a Ukrainian writer and poet, is the author of several books of fiction and four books of poetry. A chapbook of poems in English translation is forthcoming from Arrowsmith Press this fall. She is lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. (8/2019)

Askold Melnyczuk is the founding editor of AGNI. (8/2019)

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