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The Force-Feeding of Babi Yar
unknown

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
 1
rather intrigued by you,
 2
with your back to the West
 3
and your hands over your eyes
 4
to blind them from the East.
 5
 
 
You've inspired me to stand
 6
here in full acknowledgment
 7
of your great grandmother with
 8
her age, her wisdom, and her mystique,
 9
which come from her seeing not
 10
only the greatness of nature's forces
 11
acting with no particular purpose
 12
to create something this awe-inspiring
 13
but also the malice of what
 14
men's hearts have wrought,
 15
with all of their ideologies and purposes.
 16
She's seen it all like only a
 17
thousand year old ravine turned
 18
coffin to your children could,
 19
Babi Yar.
 20
 
 
Gazing into her scarred ravine
 21
that nature's nail dug deep
 22
into your pretty face thousands of years
 23
before man's hand had even laid
 24
a deed or finger to your soil,
 25
I can't help but think of how men
 26
with lead in their hearts
 27
and shovels in their hands
 28
dug it even deeper not long ago.
 29
 
 
They filled it again with tens
 30
of thousands of unidentified
 31
mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers,
 32
who barely found the breath
 33
in their body to say
 34
good-bye to their grandmother.
 35
 
 
I have read in history
 36
books about the atrocities
 37
committed here, where
 38
it's presented in cold,
 39
calculating statistics; and was glad
 40
to know that the men,
 41
who write such literature,
 42
will never be in charge
 43
of your epitaph.  
 44
 
 
A few survivors
 45
are mentioned, who by lying
 46
in their grandmother,
 47
covered in the lifeless forms
 48
of their brothers and sisters
 49
were able to pass the time
 50
until the gun fire and
 51
commands directed at still more
 52
to die more obediently
 53
stopped ringing in their ears.
 54
 
 
Once they were reasonably certain
 55
of their own safety, they crawled
 56
out of their Babi Yar that night
 57
and stole away from that horrible site.
 58
 
 
And so I like to think the same
 59
for the rest of the men and women
 60
that she swallowed that day;
 61
that they are also lying there deceiving
 62
us all, waiting until the world is safe
 63
enough for them to stow away in the night.
 64

13 Nov 06

Rated 7 (8.1) by 2 users.
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Comments:

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.

Sam
 — 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

betty
 — 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

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