‘You and I are refugees’ by Serhiy Zhadan

Translation by Pavlo Shopin

Take only the essentials.
Take the letters.
Take only what you yourself can carry.
Take the icons and towels, take the silver knives,
Take the wooden crucifixes, the gilded figures…
Take bread and vegetables, then leave.
We will never come back here.
We will never see our cities again.
Take the letters. All of them. To the last angry letter.
We will never come back to our late night shops.
We will never drink from the dry wells.
We will never again see familiar faces.
You and I are refugees. We must flee through the night.
We run along the sunflower fields.
We run from the dogs, sleep with the cattle.
We gather water in our palms, waiting in the camps,
Vexing the dragons on the battle flags.
Friends will not return, and you will not either.
There’ll be no cozy kitchens, no usual jobs,
No sleepy lights in the apartment blocks at night,
There’ll be no green valleys or suburban wasteland.
There’ll be smeared sun behind the train window.
There’ll be a cholera pit filled with lime.
There’ll be bloodstained shoes on women’s feet,
Burnt-out checkpoint guards in the border snow,
The wounded postman with an empty bag,
The priest suspended on the rib with a sorrowless smirk,
The cemetery silence, the clamor of the command offices,
The lists of the casualties, printed without corrections,
They are so endlessly numerous, that there is no time
To check every morning if one of the names is mine.

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