In early spring I found myself flooded with grief over the death of my uncle Aleksey, whose life was cut short by a car crash just before my 10th birthday in 2000. He was only 24. I lost my best friend. He had me grooving to Russian rock as a toddler. My bedtime stories were frame-by-frame retellings of 80s horror movies: I had a powerful sense of déjà-vu watching ‘The Evil Dead’ at a pizza party in my teens. Alexey was studying Sociology at university. He was a silversmith and a boxer, and the scent of his leather boxing gloves and the varnish of his desk will remain with me forever. I have his copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot,’ Aliosha’s favourite. I haven’t read it yet, but I think I’m ready. I wrote this poem to make sense of this sudden, violent sorrow at 31.
In the apple’s ripening
the blossom meets its end.
Harvest is the herald of emptiness,
leaving husks of what was green.
A full moon warns of darkness.
A drop of scent unfolding
in a wainscoted room.
Notes are paratroopers
trained to land on their silence.
A Roman feast consumed by the throng.
Young is the dancer’s body.
It teaches the tutor to sing:
once she too had danced,
but love made a nest of her belly.
The prodigal returns, his brother is banished.
Turn the final page
of your new favourite book.
You could never read it
for the first time again. Savour every jot.
A radiant boy laid to sleep in the earth.
Life’s vigour is in the returning
from a string of lesser deaths.
The smell of spring fields
carries on the wind.
The sun’s rays shine again.
Image of author with her uncle, Aleksey
Myroslava Hartmond is British-Ukrainian, spending much of her life between Oxford, suburban south London, and Kyiv, where she ran an art gallery for six years. She has written on monumental propaganda, counterculture, and visual art, but the plague prompted her to take up creative writing again. She is now working on a poetry collection titled ‘Songs from Afar’.