Irena Pavliuk

He Says The Most Important Is Not To Be Afraid (Rave in the Underground)

He is training at the Yavoriv base.
Where I had to work as a translator.
Where I have not had the guts to work as a translator.
His name is Oleksandr.
He was married twice.
The first time they separated
because they couldn’t have a baby.
In the next marriage
there was not enough trust.
He is listening to my made-up story which does not even come close to the one of his
while lighting up my cigarette.
(Oh God, he is going to be cannon fodder!)
He says: yes, I am an adult.
He says: in the relationship the most important thing is trust.
He says: if you want, don’t be shy and dance.
He says: in autumn already at the front.
He says: I am an adult.
He exits and says: don’t be sad, I am coming back.
He buys me a coke with cognac.
He says: at the base there are many Germans, Americans, Lithuanians.
He says: I just love the electronic music here.
He asks if I don’t want more cognac into my coke.
He says: and there they fried a huge boar.
He asks what’s my name again: Ira or Vira1,
And says: yesterday was your Name Day, congrats!
He exits and says: don’t be sad, I am coming back,
And you dance in the meanwhile, do not mind the crowd!
You know, I can barely hold myself while I’m writing this.
You know, while waiting for him all these five minutes, I have died already.
And he returns and wonders why I am not dancing.
Pours more coke into my cognac, smiles and exclaims through this loud music:
(But I cannot hear his words).


1 Vira means faith in Ukrainian. εἰρήνη is the Greek for “peace”. Eirene was the Greek goddess of peace and Irena (Ira) is a version of that name.


When the subject is me

What do I have to stress
when the subject is me
Unproud unselfish unsuperior
Undoing myself deconstructing myself
deluding myself
They told me in language class to
underline the subject with one line
The predicate with two
And the object with dots
I have always mistaken the last one
Confused it with a subject
Then broke the straight line
with an
It looked so ugly

In geography class
Due to the lack of knowledge on the topic
Each time
I started to underline those parts
of the sentence
Embarrassed to leave the classroom
when everyone was still writing
Embarrassed to be not writing
when everyone was still writing

Out of embarrassment I underlined
What I thought I knew

“I” in Ukrainian is “Я
A beautiful letter I learned to draw better
than any other
I keep drawing it with my finger
Under the desk in the classroom on my
Me . . .
Anxiety coming
Anxiety going

In Ukrainian “I” is “Ja”
The assertive “Yes”
Anxiety going
I acknowledge you
I know, you’re Anxiety

And this is Me

What you are not
In syntax the subject is underlined with
one line
In phonetics they told me to never stress
Don’t stress the subject they say to an
Eastern European
Put an emphasis on the end of the
Don’t stress the subject
I, the Eastern European, tell my students
In syntax class. In gender class. Outside
of class—find the subject.

Underline it with one line
Assert your own singularity

But don’t stress it


Who am I to myself to get hold of myself?

Who am I to myself to get hold of myself
Like the water flows down in this canal
The canal is just a container to it
Or is it the Whole
(well mostly it stays unmoving)

Who am I in this moving body
Which sleeps when I want it to write
Which demands food and coffee
Amidst all my lectures
Which stays frozen
When my mind desires someone

Who am I in this frozen body

Who am I in this moving body
Which stays frozen when I command it to move

Went down the ice-cream shop
And bought a treat for it
Went by a lingerie shop
And bought a treat for it
Like for my lover

I wanted to write: “Who am I to myself to get hold of myself—a god, a devil, a slave owner, a
But I crossed it out
Eyes stared at the line with ridicule

For it’s not the Other
As well as I’m hardly the Other

It took a lifetime for all my parts to say my name in unison
The voice cracked in the noise and faded

You just turned back to listen
But that was it
And I can’t reproduce it



shadows of gables on thick snow in deep sunlight
is what I picture
thinking of home
but that’s not true

I picture a day when
a language teacher
gave me a card with the word home
and I had to explain it

it was a bit too late
by then
I had moved from my hometown
so I asked for a different word

at home
or place where I stayed I laughed
at my own escape from explaining home
to my classmates

those at language courses
merely target audience
of the word home

what would I tell them?

1. You will be asked a lot about it
once you leave it

(Every day someone invites you to visit the past
With a smile you lie about having a busy evening)

2. You will be chased by the questioning feeling
which comes too late

(Turn back and sleep,
the conversation is over)

3. Just like a memory of the former possession
once you’re broke,

Your non-existing home composes you
but you’re too much of a future to think of origins

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"