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Front line: New writing responding to the war in Ukraine

Months ago, as Russian forces invaded Ukraine, we asked poets, writers and thinkers to share their writing around the crisis. This was our 'Borderline' open call, published in The Lit Issue 4. As the situation in Ukraine battles on, we have chosen to publish further responses to our Borderline open call, to platform voices responding to - and those living on - the front line of war. Four pieces of poetry have been selected, by poets from Canada to Kyiv, writing about the songs of nightingales to theological visions.

Will Nightingales Sing 

Rebecca St. Pierre

Will nightingales 


when they 

return to Ukraine? 

Will they 

peck at charred seeds, 

perch on fractured trees, 

build homes of cold steel twigs? 

Will their 

dark silhouettes 

paralyze souls 

still searching blue skies? 

Will nightingale 


serenade sirens 

in fledgling Ukraine? 

I am my Country

Priscilla Okoye

When crossing the borders of my country became my crossing from clarity to a distorted view of who I am, then who have I become?

As my country becomes daily talk, so have I become a dialogue between who I was, who I am today and who I am to be. So who am I?

As smoke rises from the daily ruins of my country, so have I been reduced to a shadow of who I used to be. Now, knowing me and defining me has become looking into a smoked glass. Who have I become?

As lips that once spoke become cold and forever silent, I wonder if I’ll truly live again.

I weep at the destruction of my country, and that of me. I am my country, my country is me.

When all the dust settles, who will I be? Who will you be?

war is a job for us new poets

Cora Reichert 

brave cold sunrise square

on the countertop- i’m flipping

your bagged sandwich to

turn the plastic lip in         (jam smear)

warm grime fogs the february window

where I couldn’t reach the rag

24-hour news rolling red like

t-90s on my kitchen table

curtain calls crackling in bright

false voices for another suburb

plumed into particles


loitering dazed in shattered streets

a closeup shot of blood on his balaclava

sleep well

concussion eyes

dies irae- i pack you one of the discount apples

they’re bruised and sure to go bad soon

i snap off the coffee-pot that smells of burning

i’m thankful the

old poets are safely dead

Winged Neptune

Vyacheslav (Slava) Konoval 

In a burning funnel, the engine charges,

the sharp ballistic head does not feel the whim of touches,

Ukraine’s naval forces spare no effort,

in wartime, sailors still do not know the comfort.

Winged Neptune, the patron saint of rockets,

Neptune does not need energy from the planet or the socket,

ruins of the enemy navy more than impress.

Visit The Lit Issue 4 to see Nur Allan’s multidisciplinary response to our ‘Borderline’ open call. 

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