Artwork © Sketchman Boris


February 24 marks the one year anniversary of the Ukraine war.

The tension between Ukraine and Russia worsened in 2014 when Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was overthrown by the Ukrainian people leading Russia to annex Crimea and support rebel insurrectionists in Eastern Ukraine. And in 2022 The Russian Ukrainian War began when Russian forces attempted to take over the country. To some degree it can be assessed as a conflict over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Russian support of insurrectionists, but most importantly, as Russia’s attempt to regain regional dominance. This war has significant geopolitical ramifications, including increased tensions between Russia and the West and instability in Europe. Ironically, Kiev, during Medieval times, was the impetus for Russian society.


Canto XII

And of the veteran vagabonds,
Wars raging every moment
Deep in the trenches of their minds, bodies
Mauled, and mutilated with
Severed sections remade
Into something other than men,

That they should ultimately be disposed
Here to fend for themselves
Is no great surprise; nor in this
Crisis to maintain some semblance of sovereignty,
Now the 12th month of war,
That top tier of government
Remain continually corrupt.

Savagery of war notwithstanding, inherent
Is the savagery of civilized societies and self:
The sense that in waning capabilities of aging
And growing chance of senescence and demise,
Money is the only glue
To fortify self, and that one
Had to solidify the fluid
By any means possible.

If there were not this cognizance,
Empathy and charity would be rife,
Corruption non-existent,
And war an oddity,
But it is no oddity
Here in Ukraine or elsewhere; and
That we should risk
Life and limb
In a sordid country
Where, within, the head
Plunders resources,
Eviscerating the body,
Is nothing short of
A fool’s errand.

Medicine? No nutrients, even, in
This promised land- proxy,
This ersatz of this mendacious claim
That recovered convalescents
Would be taken care of in the West
(is this the West? –yes, west
In the sense
Of a hundred kilometres or so into the motherland).
No, no nutrients
Beyond, for the few it is possible,
Processed from contempt
Of Ukraine almost as much
As of Russia itself, if contempt
Is a nutrient.

Surely, even for the most
Desperate and inconsolable of us,
Who are always the most reticent,
There is something
In nothingness,
In fatigue reverberating
With pangs of hunger.
There is force within–
That it is the force
Of the gradual falling of a dilapidated building
Does not negate it is a force.

Whether there is a possibility
Of surviving this I do not know.
Thus, Stranger, come to me, veteran amputee
Defecated onto the streets of this coastal paradise,
This blackout of Odessa, from the rectum of a bus.

With subsequent appurtenance of
Nausea a slippery ground
From which boulders of
A part of self, consciousness,
Sometimes disengage disconcertingly,
Avalanching from mind through torso,
Hunger induces a madness.

And with little or no water to drink
Unless one were to drink the
Very seas of Odessa–
So much water to drink–
My left hand and right leg have
Begun to cramp.
But that there is
Nothing to eat
Is not quite true.
Out of bins,
Throwaways are a small ocean
Of the making.
See or smell,
Whatever you can do,
The puddles of diarrhoea
Of transients
In every alley and there,
That, is the confirmation.

Like the very conditions for life itself
On this captivated planet
Moving about
On its leash,
So much is needed
To make a being stable
(People, dogs, cats,
All strays of this war the same,
One would be better off
Living in a stable–
Animals domesticated to starve
Or be slaughtered by the human animal,
The human savage).
The only consolation is
That the pangs of hunger
Dissipate like any wave
And so the arrhythmia
Of the bouts of momentary madness
Of the mind.

Thus, Stranger, come to me
Come to me in this blackout,
This black hole of Odessa.
Forlorn with the other stray animals
Dumped out and abandoned in the streets,
Any crumbs of kindness vouchsafed
Or thrown out contemptuously to me
Like bread crumbs to pigeons
Would be greatly appreciated.

No, not the lesser degrees
Of life that are wanted, that are
Comfortable enough
To be complacent in,
To nap in like insular
Pampered cats, but the
Fuller realms replete in
Unadulterated experiences
Wrought in satiated,
Overflowing suffering
That is the life that the vast amount
Of humanity, until recent times, lived,
Albeit, sometimes in the West,
Romanticized by the bored and affluent,
In the artifice of the mind,
As an ideal of asceticism and
Chosen by them in brevity:
By the ascetic seeking simplicity and the
Adventurer or outdoorsman
Seeking extremities–
A Nepalese resort on a mountain, for example, or
A giant wave to surf until,
From altitude sickness or ocean depth,
One is nearly killed by the power of nature.

Real nature is no park. It is a jungle.
Full life is never really wanted and yet
There it is
Irritating as the myriad of
Persistent fire flies of amorous
Conflagration inducing yearning
For a stranger on a street
One cannot have.

No one, and nothing
Can the transient have
But the aversion of others.
Disoriented stray dogs,
Often busied in amorous
Physical immersion
On side walks or streets
Are treated with more tolerance.

Canine strays
Have a better chance
Of being fed
Than human strays,
Veteran or otherwise,
And when pity is absent can
Clench plastic bags
Of rotting viands
Out of the trash
Running off with them happily.

Thus, Stranger, come to me, an amputee
Defecated onto the streets of this coastal paradise,
From the rectum of a bus.
Wander aimlessly
Amongst me and other stray animals,
Sleep with me on the side walks
Of the empty train station,
Wake mornings from
The pillow of the curb
To the fluttered relief and eschewal
Of pigeons defeating you on your sleeve.

You won’t die of hypothermia
Not here in this windy coastal venue
The government chose for their trash heap.
It is much warmer here than most of Ukraine,
And war heroes thrown out
Onto icy plains
Would not make good optics.
Die as one might of starvation
Or infected wounds,
You will not die of frost bite.
No not here.
But you will suffer indignities
And do so bravely
As there is enlightenment
To be had in them:

The understanding
Of how desperate is the parasite
Sucking blood from the emaciated anaemic, and
The necessity of a man of once high social status
To fall from grace and
Be the needy.
Gauche, shameless, the mendicant, the anathema
People try not to look at,
Begging from the impecunious
And yet this is what I am.


Steven David Justin Sills is a literary writer in Bangkok Thailand. His book of poetry can be found scanned into the Internet Archive.

Sketchman Boris is a cartoonist who does comic strips and aspires to create stories and publish more books than what he has published so far.