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The Force-Feeding of Babi Yar

Babi Yar is the name of a ravine running through Kiev, Ukraine.  The name literally means Grandmother Ravine.

However, in 1941 it found a new purpose, when it was used as one of many mass graves concealing the bodies of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children after they had been shot by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen.

Kiev, I've always been
rather intrigued by you,
with your back to the West
and your hands over your eyes
to blind them from the East.
You've inspired me to stand
here in full acknowledgment
of your great grandmother with
her age, her wisdom, and her mystique,
which come from her seeing not
only the greatness of nature's forces
acting with no particular purpose
to create something this awe-inspiring
but also the malice of what
men's hearts have wrought,
with all of their ideologies and purposes.
She's seen it all like only a
thousand year old ravine turned
coffin to your children could,
Babi Yar.
Gazing into her scarred ravine
that nature's nail dug deep
into your pretty face thousands of years
before man's hand had even laid
a deed or finger to your soil,
I can't help but think of how men
with lead in their hearts
and shovels in their hands
dug it even deeper not long ago.
They filled it again with tens
of thousands of unidentified
mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers,
who barely found the breath
in their body to say
good-bye to their grandmother.
I have read in history
books about the atrocities
committed here, where
it's presented in cold,
calculating statistics; and was glad
to know that the men,
who write such literature,
will never be in charge
of your epitaph.  
A few survivors
are mentioned, who by lying
in their grandmother,
covered in the lifeless forms
of their brothers and sisters
were able to pass the time
until the gun fire and
commands directed at still more
to die more obediently
stopped ringing in their ears.
Once they were reasonably certain
of their own safety, they crawled
out of their Babi Yar that night
and stole away from that horrible site.
And so I like to think the same
for the rest of the men and women
that she swallowed that day;
that they are also lying there deceiving
us all, waiting until the world is safe
enough for them to stow away in the night.

13 Nov 06

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I love this a lot, particularly because I am writing a novel right now about Russian folklore. With that I wonder if you couldn't compare Babi Yar to Baba Yaga, or if that might be too hokey. At any rate it makes ME want to write a poem comparing the two, but I won't steal your thunder :)
 — Ananke

Nice one. Like.
 — PollyReg

This is beautiful writing. A few nits but nothing serious:

l3 - the repetition of 'you' is not necessary especially when included with 'your'
l7 - 'you might say' is also unnecessary and by deleting would lessen the amount of 'you'(s) in the poem.
l22-27 may sound better as:

Gazing into her scarred ravine
that nature's nail dug deep
into your pretty face thousands of years
before man's hand had even laid
a deed or finger to your soil,
I can't help but think of how men...

l37-38 another way of putting this perhaps? The way it reads sounds like the atrocities were committed in history books. Leaving out 'in history books' would make more sense.
l45 - 'in those books' again, not necessary to include as the reader is already aware that you were reading of these things.
A few survivors are mentioned,
who by lying in their grandmother...
(would help it scan better, as well.)

One last nit - not sure if I am liking 'you might say' (l7) and 'I'm sure you're aware' (l31-32), as it is either over-personifying Kiev or alluding to the fact that the city is aware of these things which I'm sure it is not.

Otherwise, this is terrific writing.

 — unknown

Thanks for the comments guys,

Ananke: I'm not aware of any parallel between the Russian Baba Yaga and Babi Yar other than the fact that the languages are similar and thus the folk tale and the ravine appear similar.  

Sam: I took your suggestions and edited this.  Thanks.
 — unknown

You need to make that an intro instead of a footnote!
 — Isabelle5

Line 33 - breath, not breathe

Overall this is well told but I think that if you told it as though it is happening right now, in the present, as though you are the ravine accepting the bodies and recognizing there are some still living, you help them escape.  

Told in the "Babi's" voice, this could be a very powerful poem, indeed.
 — Isabelle5

Baba Yaga was known for eating children; that's the similarity I was thinking of
 — Ananke

Ahh yes good point...  I suppose I didn't even think of that.  It is indeed a good parallel.  The only thing I worry about with it is the obscureness.  Very few people are familiar with Russian folklore and most people also aren't really familiar with this ravine.  But yes, that is definitely a good idea.  

Thanks for pointing out that typo Isabelle... I can never spell that word.
 — unknown

i am familiar with russian folklore
i have a three poems influenced by russia
or russian folklore
one is about baba yaga

i wan't familiar with the ravine
this was an interesting read

 — unknown

it's got a few wordy spots in it that interrupt the flow for me.  11-13, 19, 21-25, 50-54.  but then, i'm a fan of brevity and concise writing.  otherwise i like it.  strophes 1,3,5,7 and 8 are the best imo.
 — balancing