Photography © Jack Marty


Canto XIX of A War Papyrus

Born were they, these creatures,
Distinct individuals of discrete species
Biologically/circumstantially unique with
Personalities and prowess fostered, stymied, and delimited,
By nurturing and circumscribing events opportune
And inopportune, that augmented
And amalgamated that uniqueness further.
Each organism possessing little else
But innate worth, worthless it was when
Such minute distinctions of individuals
Were of populations this vast
So vastly the same.[It is Independence Day in Ukraine,
And we shall try to perfect resilience]

They, as invaders, were vermin;
And as battalions
Or snipers at night
With infrared means
We will dispose them
As we please

Indispensable, an organism was not,
Not even a species, and if
Thousands were infected today from pestilence
And were to die tomorrow, the species itself
Would take no notice,
Let alone the world and all of its
Variegated patterns
That had one thing in common
With each other: that being, not being
All that different from nestlings
–the strong to mature and linger
Until old and weakened,
And the weak at birth to be underfed and
Once starved, with the nest abandoned,
Allowed to easily pass away
As fodder for the predator’s mouth[It is Independence Day in Ukraine,
And we shall try to perfect resilience]

Without cluster bombs, without F-16 air power
To ford trenches this wide, valleys this mined,
Russia will retain the East, and with that retention
All of Ukraine will be eventually subsumed.

So, at the beginning of piscine life
At the dawn of time, in the dark fathoms of sea,
And later the terrestrial and incipient amphibious forms,
And mammals beyond, with fecundity this superfluous,
Populations this rife, the peregrinating flora,
That being sea and land fauna,
Had to be pruned in the self-mechanism
Of a multifarious instinctual self-realization
That by conceptualizing lower species as “food,”
The weak and the diminutive of it in particular,
De-animalizing them, as it were,
In savage brutish attacks of raw devouring
Done ad infinitum, with edible vegetation so limited,
Life, as brief as a life was, was possible.[It is Independence Day in Ukraine,
And we shall try to perfect resilience]

They, the invaders, irrespective of
Having unwillingly entered our country under duress,
Irrespective of being demoralized
And skeptical of the
Propaganda of the national objective
Of the Russian state,
Or claiming so in fear,
Must perish.
When one of the deluded
And inebriated enemy is caught
Denuding one of our women, or when entrapped,
One or more of a band of these Russian bastards,
Now prisoners of war,
Shouts invective and Imprecations,
Or displays or
Feigns excessive arrogance or contrition,
They, by entering, created the situation
Of their annihilation, and thus it is
They who are the source of their extinction.

If this is not the innocent, guileless life
That is wanted,
It is the only life afforded to such creatures
In a creation that itself
Is a monstrosity of impaling
Rival tentacles
That cut off and consume
Each other in this unwieldy Entity
(God, the monster God, as you please).
In such frenetic and febrile conditions
So bereft of solicitude, so loveless,
Even Pharaohs would have been feral[It is Independence Day in Ukraine,
And we shall try to perfect resilience]

For an individual, for a herd,
To survive with a chance to thrive,
Flourishing had to be predicated
On exploitation and predation.
It is a physical law, it is the creation
That the Monster God envisaged,
Thanks be to God!

And these tentacles, these gluttonous
Insatiable tentacles that imagined
Themselves as distinct species, and the
More powerful as monsters, thought
They were entitled
To arrogate as their “food” the most vulnerable
Of a subordinate species for poaching–
Innocence only to be had, at least
Ostensibly, by vegetation
That gained sustenance by photosynthesis and
The rest following the First Law of Pragmatism
For Material Existence, kill or be killed
(Machiavelli stating that
He who tries to stand on ideals
Rarefied and ethereal,
Albeit from logical discernment
Of the deficiencies of human existence,
Is bound to plummet from such heights
To destruction).

Virtues were not tenable
When material existence
Was so tenuous;
But we shall not brood on such matters.
It is Independence Day in Ukraine,
And we shall try to perfect resilience

However, in some distant quiescent era,
Were such an era to materialize,
An era when all will have formed
Some level of a more perfect union,
A more perfect symbiosis,
In which predatory instincts will be extinct,
Still inherent in the grazing cow would be the savage bull, and
Within the tamest elephant, there would be cells
That raze villages, for inherent in all
Are white corpuscles as recognizer cells of pathogens
And designers of antibodies like baseball mitts
To interfere with pathogen progression, but also
Those that fight and devour
For killer is inherent in every animal corpus
Without exception, and killer we were
Designed to be.

For every action
There is an equal reaction
In which to the ruthless
We will be ruthless,
For so says the
Second Law of Pragmatism
For Material Existence
Of practical ethics

Gilded as any man may seem to himself
Gold in excess would be just another useless metal.
And what is a man anyway?
For all the illusion of grandeur, he is easily
Smashed like any bug
Even whole societies of them–
The disappearance mattered little and
Society would hardly reel from it.
Psychologically and materially
Only the man who made and spent money
Could delude himself otherwise;
Only the man who made and spent money
Could delude himself that society
Perceived his innate worth– the impecunious
Not vouchsafed such magic mushrooms

And every night in dreams
My sleep is punctuated by exploding
Shrapnel within a bedroom
As good as an animal’s stall and
Slightly better than life on the streets.
It is given to me as remuneration
For excessive toil akin to slavery.
There is a burning sensation throughout my body
Including the phantom limb
That is attached as replacement
Of the detached.

I could kill myself to end my stay
On this savage plain.
That I could,
As I think about this act every day.
But it is impossible to know unequivocally
Whether such an act would be
Recalcitrant defiance or craven necessity,
Or if my death would make
The lives of others more burdensome.
Thus, I linger.


Steven David Justin Sills is a poor struggling literary artist eeking out a living in Bangkok Thailand. Like the central character in one of Tennessee William’s plays, he believes that “The work of a poet is his life, and his life is his work.” After finishing his novel The Three Hour Lady, he began writing a lengthy war poem on the Russo-Ukrainian War. He wrote this nineteenth canto for the nineteen month duration of this unwarranted act of aggression The title A War Papyrus parallels his book An American Papyrus published in 1990 by the New Poet’s Series in Baltimore Maryland (Professor Clarinda Harris, editor). Sills has a Master’s degree in great books of the Western Canon.

Jack Marty takes photos when he feels like it. He thinks long bios get in the way of the work. This photo was taken in Provincetown, the source of much art in support of the Ukraine.