Helena by Stephen McGowan


(Inspired by the pictures of Ukraine Civilian Helena, bloody but unbowed. Credit to

We both slept in the comfort of our dreams and woke to base uncertainty.
But I have distance, refreshing newsfeeds from afar,
You have the intimacy of a knife.

I fear each bomb,
But only for a broken future, edging closer to me and mine.
To you they are the death of friends, of family, of you,
And each crack that shatters the cold winter air echoes with screams or worse –

We talk, are all talk.
Meandering mouth muscles flexing with mealy mouthed words,
Paid by the word by red square repugnants’ with receipts tucked into Bullingdon
You have no breath to argue, to threaten,
Only to plead and spit venom – Let the sunflowers grow – and be afraid.

I don’t know your names. I have to look for them at the bottom of interviews and pictures. I’m confused by them.
You are all Gil’yena. Bloody, open armed, strong, and vulnerable,
As bright as sunflowers in the snow.

You are more than Gil’yena. You are Fatima, Marie, Ahmed, David, Jeddah,
You are the dispossessed, the new diaspora, the defiant.

I’m scared about what is to come.
You are terrified about what is already here.

About the piece

This is a freeform poem covering the theme of distance and compares the world watching
the Ukraine crisis with the people there and is heavily inspired by a picture of a
Ukraine civilian called Helena (credited in title).

About the author

Stephen McGowan is a poet and author, studying Creative Writing at Northumbria University. He takes part in local Open Mic sessions around the North East, and has multiple poetical events to come in 2022 and beyond. He also writes prose and is working on a Gothic Horror Novella and a Dark Fantasy Novel. He is active on Facebook @stephenmcgowanauthor and Twitter @geekdaddyprime.

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