Oksana Maksymchuk

February 20, 2023 Maksymchuk Oksana



Waking up in a borrowed room, in a body
borrowed for a time, in a time
borrowed and hardly used


I remember how light
my head becomes when the boys overtaking us
in the alley tickle me with guns


running them down my spine, then my hip
How I levitate, the force of a scream suppressed
lifting me up and up!


And the way it gets dark when strange men
pound on my door at night
shouting “Open up, or we’ll break it in!”


Right before the war, I’d wake up in bed
dreaming of another bed, body in it exposed
bone by bone, like a radiograph


through a brilliance, an explosion
tearing at the membranes
that ensconce the sleeper


Close, yet not
an exact match, like a rhyme in a poem
you compose posthaste, lines
blurred by terror

Oksana Maksymchuk is a bilingual Ukrainian-American poet, scholar, and literary translator. Her poetry appeared in AGNIThe Irish TimesThe Paris ReviewThe Poetry Review, and other journals. In the Ukrainian, she is the author of poetry collections Xenia and Lovy and a recipient of Bohdan-Ihor Antonych and Smoloskyp prizes, two of Ukraine’s top awards for younger poets. With Max Rosochinsky, she co-edited Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, an award-winning anthology of contemporary poetry. Oksana won first place in the Richmond Lattimore and Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender translation competitions and was awarded a National Endowments for the Arts Translation Fellowship. She is the co-translator of Apricots of Donbas by Lyuba Yakimchuk; and The Voices of Babyn Yar by Marianna Kiyanovska. Oksana holds a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern University. Based in Lviv, Ukraine, she currently resides in Poland.