Vasyl Makhno
A poet, writer and translator. He is the author of ten collections of poetry. He has also published a collection of short stories, two books of essays, and two plays. He edited an anthology of young Ukrainian poets from the 1990’s. Makhno’s work has been translated into over twenty fives languages, and his poems were published in Poland, Romania, Serbia and the USA. He is the 2013 recipient of Serbia’s Povele Morave Prize in Poetry and BBC Book of the Year Award 2015.  Makhno currently lives in New York City.


a soldier – he can catch a bullet

with his quivering heart and fall into solitude itself

the earth – like a mother – will embrace him

because an idiot sniper shot him

an angel lights a candle and sounds his trumpet


a battalion that no longer exists –

they were shot in the back at close range –

they’re still tying their bootlaces

still marching through the steppe

already hopelessly late


the general – commander of a non-existent front

a turncoat swine and no hero –

deserves to have his epaulettes stripped

should grovel at every door

forget his hemorrhoids and heal his soul


this is war: mother and stepmother –

cousin, aunt and, sure, a whore,

death, lacking any semantic sense

when it gathers up its metal bowls

is a hole-riddled soldier’s heart, nothing more


I am a poet of the periodic table of ruins

of a broken army and a forfeited land

shot-through like the heart of a soldier

it shakes like an uncatchable feather

trembling lightly on a stem


Vasyl Makhno

Translated by Uilleam Blacker