Poems about War & Conflict

The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian woman approached a Russian soldier.

I give you these seeds, she said.
Pocket them so at least sunflowers will grow
when you lie down here.

Wounds slowed him, and, quickly mature,
he ceased to turn his aching head
toward the sun. Faced East, thought of home,
lowered his neck like a sunflower cultivar
preferred by farmers – one which birds fly over
without seeing it as a daily bread.


Last bullet stucks in barrel, silence
And brunch has deal with lonely dove
No bombs, no fire, no more violence
Again it’s time for peace and love

Home, a place where we reside

where family grow and flourish

a place where we relax and rest

love, support, encourage

A sanctuary from the daily grind

a shelter from the weather

a place of comfort and protection

a family, safe together

until our Home became a place

where we were safe no more

where suddenly, we found we were trapped

by hatred, conflict, war

Home, a place that we once had

before so many died

that Home was lost to fear and violence

we left it all behind

A home, a place I now long for

where we might start again

a refuge where my family

might recover from the pain

In the empty pastureland
         rough steps lead down
to an underworld. Two men,
         hunting for news,
duck through the entrance
         into a reek – sour clothes, urine.
A chill, the ground soft with dust.
One more step and it’s grave-dark,
thundercracks of shellfire muffled.
         Smoke smudges the light
 showing through the slit. Water drips  –
         a clicking as of a gun being cocked,
         or saliva sucked back?
The wind-up torch whirrs.
Strafing the dark,
         its beam snags on eyes
         bright with terror –
seven boys in a row. Wearing sweat-shirts
and zipped up in anoraks,
         they sit cross-legged
         on a patterned prayer rug  facing the entrance and the steps above.
The torchlight frisks them:
         hands shielding their eyes –
the sons of fighters with a price on their deaths.
Just as the newsmen turn to leave
with their picture
         the eldest boy rises to ask
         When will our mother come back?
Hiding them in the grave of an earlier war
         she’d pressed her hand to her heart
         as she touched each boy’s cheek
before leaving them here in the dark
         while she slipped out to hunt for food.
These boys were found by British journalists in a Roman burial chamber in Idlib Province, Syria. Feb 2013.

Among wood shavings and dust
at his solid, sturdy bench.
he stares through the window, light
picks out the weathered surface
its history held in deep cuts,
stains of bleeding oil cans
and drips of red undercoat.

Unseen is his tiny, tidy patch of green.
Instead there’s the moment before
the bench,
before the shed,
before this house, this town,
before five children.
Even before this wife,
Before his mind split open.
Before, when he could speak,
when he could smile.

One moment: when
like all the men
boots thick with mud
a rifle in one hand,
his brother beside him
about to leave the trench.
One moment as the barrage lessened
– short seconds between explosions.
One moment when
he still had a brother.

The scene plays again and again until
a sound unlike war, calls him back.
Wearily he looks around,
runs a hand over the bench
before he sees the child,
touches the half finished toy
and begins for a moment
to forget.

My friend, your Czechs ask me
If I have a new poem.

I live with a passport of the country
Where the rockets start,
In the country,
Where the rockets rain down.

Belarusan is the second most hated passport
Across the territory of Ukraine.

I do plan to live here.

So I’d better go and weave the nets,
Experience in writing syllabotonic verses really helps with it.
It is important to keep the rhythm, you know.

Meet you someday at Czech hospoda* “U Kotvy”,
In which we sing Banderite songs with Sashko from Ukraine, right now in the Snovsk siege

I see you grin, it’s hard to imagine these songs in such a place. Many things are hard to imagine, so we grin a lot here too.

Good, that you don’t drink, they serve not the best beer.
Good, that you are not here.
The end of the Good. The end of the message.

03.03.2022, Lviv

*hospoda – a typical Czech pub

Translated by Ales Plotka and Corinne Leech

Pushkin walks through Bucha,
Lights his looted Chesterfield blue with hot logs,
And kicks smashed toys from his way with a cane.

Ashes land on his whiskers, just as kidneys go down after a punch is landed.
What a funny game of words, can my froggy-groupies deal with translating it?

Familiar scenery and heroes dear to the heart are all around.

The highlanders are making full-length portraits,
This is fast nowadays, no need to pay the artist, just choose a music vibe for this Tik-Tok upload.

Someone at the end of the street is dragging the mattress by the edge [1]. Fo shizzle, that’s Brodsky!
Gosh, who is draggin’ like this? You’d better stayed at HQ, indeed [2].

Here are the tanks coming from Belarus,
You can see rose petals of Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva fan-clubs on their steel tracks.
Stuck to shit and clay.
They won’t stick to the yellow sand [3].

An alien drone is heard in the distance,
Come closer, hawkeye, look at me,
Film, film me, Old Europe’s envoy.

I will be staring at the horizon thoughtfully,
Will be listening to the choir of the raped.

And you will be decrypting my thougths and my look,
Rationalise evil and figure out the details of the maniac’s soul,
And I’ll just slide a bill into your mouth,
Like to Katiusha Maslova [4].

A fast buck, no?
Don’t lose it.

29.04.2022 Кyiv

[1] Joseph Brodsky colonial poem «On the Independence of Ukraine»[2] Joseph Brodsky magnum opus poem «Don’t leave your room»[3] Vasiĺ Bykaŭ repressions drama story «Yellow sand»[4] Leo Tolstoy last novel «Resurrection»

translated by Ales Plotka and Corinne Leech

I had a little dolly
Her name I now forget
I played with her
And sang a song
To comfort her in her sleep
She never said a word
As the bullets rang round my head
She couldn’t move her hands
She couldn’t run away
She only stayed with me
Because I held her hand so tight
I woke up in the morning
After a very fretful night
I’m sure I heard her whisper
Is today going to be safe
Can we really play outside
You and me and all the toys
Forgot what fun was like
I whispered back
Let’s go and see
I remember now
The name I gave
It was Semtex Sally
You pulled a string from her back
All went suddenly black
Fragments of a melody
Echoed from the playground walls
Like the nursery rhyme
Where Humpty Dumpty falls
Could put me or Sally
Back together again

You’re a refugee claiming asylum
You arrive with scars on your back
Deeper than people can see
You worked all your life you have a degree
You’ve left all behind because of the insanity
Your home has been bombed Your land mined
Your daughter being raped
You can’t get out of your mind
You sold everything you had
You’ve paid an enormous price
To travel across the unforgiving sea
Some made the ultimate sacrifice
You arrive at the land of supposed safety
The look on the faces suggest you are not the first
You know you are definitely not the last
You’re processed with the full force of the law
They ask you your name and what’re you saw
You’re placed on a list
And checked to see if you’re of interest
Your case placed on hold and then placed in detention
You are held in a prison awaiting a final decision
If you are needed you can stay
If you don’t The government will pay
For your repatriation That’s a fancy name for deportation
Land has borders we’ve got our orders
You didn’t have a visa that’s valid
Passports and green papers are worth more than you are
Even though you’ve travelled so Incredibly far
You lost your right when you chose not to stay and fight
Down on the ground
It’s only fair when we fight from the air
We are doing our bit To replace the dictatorship
That we originally placed in the seat of power
From our ivory tower
You’re a pawn and from dawn to dawn
They’ll never be peace whilst men are in power
God made the world round So everything would flow
Man made everything straight
To build the fences and hang the border gate

I will teach you. Music is all we have.
(line from Alabanza: in Praise of Local 100
by Martin Espada)

We have lost our homeland
mountain ranges
where our ancestors
walked and worked, listened
for the neck bells of flocks
heard their bleating bounce off boulders
kept eyes peeled for wolves
smelt the spring grass.

Now gunfire echoes in these mountains
our people sharp-look for those
who would destroy them
and wade in stench of dead loved ones.

We have lost who we were
our history trampled under boots
that stamp a different story.
Words, carved from the landscape
we spoke to each other in secret
have no meaning here
now we tongue-trip over English
and they say our children have no language.

We have lost our homes, lost our friends
torn from our families
we are piled up like bruised fruit
in city buildings, row upon row the same.

Hear the flute wavering
calling up peaks and valleys of our past
watch us clash our hands together in unison
see our red kerchiefs held
by a corner,
wave above our heads
as we stamp our feet
and wail.

Yes, I will teach you. Music is all we have.

Through the biting wind, never a minutes peace from its relentless assault.
Terror etching lines across the face of hope.
Then the rain, drenched fully, it has no adversaries, no pain, no feeling,
the weak fall by the wayside.
Step after Step. Away from hell, away from hate, barrel bombs and bullets.
The landscape riven with the dying and the dead.
Bombed out, corrupted by war, broken trees smashed houses.
Only men with guns, stray dogs looking for food; being food.
Step After Step. Tasting the stench of rotting corpses, then rats, a writhing screeching mass of flesh-eating horror. The night shrouds the macabre tableau played out every day.
All that is left is the capuff of distant air raids and the abject fear of crying children.
Step After Step. The misery moves on, mile after mile to find humanity to be human.
When they came to our home we gave them food and shelter.
The took our food and our shelter.
Then they took our homes our land our children, then the took our lives.
What is left is this line of bedraggled starving humanity.
Step After Step. Through the desert heat, left behind the desecrated remains of our home.
Abandoned by God abandoned the world.
Step After Step. We are less every day
Step After Step. Into the camps we will go.
Step After Step. Where we will stay.
Step After Step. Until we fade away.