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.

I Want to Hear – A collaborative poem conceived and arranged by Erin Murphy

I Want to Hear

Hearing may indeed by one of the last senses to lose function as humans die.

                                                                                          —Scientific Reports, 2020

I want to hear the scarlet-headed woodpecker
on a distant oak tapping out agrub, agrub, agrub,

twigs crackling underfoot on a forest path
as sunlight filters onto my face,

creekwater running past and over rocks
on its way to the falls
like conversation between lovers.

I want to hear the gasping hiss of a hot iron
lifted from pressed fabric, a flood of steam
rising from each smoothed crease,

the cracking open of a Coke can,
the sizzling of soda bubbling up,

toast crunching on linoleum
as we stomp anger into crumbs,

the swish of Rob Halford’s tight-fitting leather vest.

I want to hear anything but the crow-cry pulsing
of my continuous glucose monitor.

I want to hear Bill Withers’ grandma’s hands indwell
the liturgy where my grandmother brought us,
the tall cross out front in bloom,

bagpipe notes wailing in a canyon,
sliding like trombones down cliffs,

cars passing swiftly, faint as peace.

I want to hear boots tapping on wooden floors
as my father leaves and returns from work,

the bustle of garbage collectors on the porch.

I want to hear a newborn baby crying,

the wise creak of a rocking chair,
heavy with the weight of a mother
and her cocooned child.

I want to hear the rhythmic buzz
of a spouse’s snoring,

the cackle, howl, and wheeze
of my family’s laughter,

grandkids’ shrieks weaving together
in the backseat.

The landline message calling my name
three days before Mom’s death.

A nurse leaning down and whispering
We are transferring you to the love ward.

The distant train whistle
of the words I and mine.

Voices running together like rain,
letting me know they’ll be okay.

And my mother’s voice again:
Everything will be fine.


A collaborative poem conceived and arranged by Erin Murphy during the 2022 West Virginia Writers’ Workshop, featuring lines by Mark Brazaitis, Joel Chineson, Gary Ciocco, Lori D’Angelo, Karen DePinto, Sarah Beth Ealy, Rebecca Ernest, Stanley Galloway, Katy Giebenhain, David Hayhurst, Georgianna Heiko, Irene Klosko, George M. Lies, Martin Malone, Erin Murphy, Renée K. Nicholson, Karen Peacock, Stan Pisle, Guy Terrell, Deborah Westin, Maryann Wolfe, and Nicole Yurcaba.

Erin Murphy, who conceptualized and arranged this collaborative poem, is the author of nine poetry collections, including Human Resources (forthcoming from Salmon Poetry). She is professor of English at Penn State Altoona where she organized a college-wide collaborative poetry project entitled “In My America.”
Twitter: @poet_notes


“I Want to Hear” Collaborative Poem Prompt

It has long been believed that hearing is the last sense to go. A recent University of British Columbia study determined that unresponsive actively dying patients continue to hear in the final hours before death. The study – “Electrophysiological evidence of preserved hearing at the end of life” – was published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2020. With this in mind, you are invited to participate in a collaborative poetry project.

• Write a list of the final sounds you’d want to hear. These could be sounds you love, sounds you find calming, a sound you miss, or words you need or want to hear. Just jot them down – don’t worry about being descriptive.
• Now go back and choose one sound to describe in detail. Make notes about all of the associations you have with this sound.
• Write one sentence that fills in this blank: “I want to hear __________________.” Be as specific and concrete as possible.