Two Poems by Nicole Yurcaba

Ode to a US Army Special Forces Soldier Educating Me about My Homeland’s Literature

Tell me again how you want to fight
Zabuzhko’s sentences into philosophies
bound by proper punctuation. You don’t know
what it is like spending your life lost
in translation, how one language wrestles
a second or third face-down into mud
& forces it to swallow handful after handful–
dirt, grass, gravel, piss, shit, & blood
until you no longer remember
how to say bird or sky or death,
so you could wake up one day to learn
your pregnant cousin who stayed behind
in your family’s homeland burned alive
in a car bombed by occupiers who clip
phone wires & mail them home believing
the internet’s entirety exists within. Tell me
again my homeland’s history, how our nation’s
bard lived in exile, how when my family escaped
we had no home yet home is a mosaic
6,000 miles from where I stand, squinting
in wonder that you think Lemko
is merely a former team mate’s surname.


Ode to Drinking at QXT’s in Newark with Franz Kafka

A friend advises I stay wary
of the Existentialists. He knows
damn well I am in too deep
with Kafka, who sits beside
me on a Saturday night,
sipping a cosmopolitan.
Franz, I say. We were born
beautifully dead inside.
Kafka weighs our insignificance
in his right hand.
Your heart weighs an ounce
too little, Franz says. You
are awarded the precipice’s edge.
The DJ spins Blutengel’s
“Forever Young.” My phone
Buzzes–a message from my friend:
Nikola, I wish you didn’t think
of yourself as other. Kafka’s drink
trembles in his hand. He leans
into me, his lips hot on my ear.
His finger’s cold sinks through
my fishnets. We spend too much
time together, Franz states.
Another night, and I may not
be able to keep myself
from pushing you. I take
Kafka’s hand, lead him
to the dancefloor, place his hands
on my chest. His fingers
tap      tap      tap     
the bass rhythm
the policy of truth
known only by the darkness
thrumming beneath my bodice’s ties.


Nicole Yurcaba (Ukrainian: Нікола Юрцаба–Nikola Yurtsaba) is a Ukrainian American poet and essayist. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Whiskey Island, Raven Chronicles, West Trade Review, Appalachian Heritage, North of Oxford, and many other online and print journals. Nicole holds an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Nicole teaches poetry workshops for Southern New Hampshire University and is a guest book reviewer for Sage Cigarettes, Tupelo Quarterly, Colorado Review, and The Southern Review of Books.

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