Weep, sky, weep . . .

Weep, sky, weep and weep! Wash the unabated sea
Of thin-voiced waters and dampen the heart.
It seems it was just now, just yesterday
That a deathly shiver buried you alive.
Weep, sky, weep and weep! The past cannot be returned.
Today has been reduced to naught, the future will not come.
Something weighs on the mind that can never
Be torn from the heart. This prison is a prison for prisons!
Weep, sky, weep and weep! Still over your horizons
And let the stars fall from darkened skies!
Is there in this world a trumpet that will sound
A final blast to keep me from my resurrection?
Flow, water, flaw and sweep me away from my weariness,
For eternities of bondage have crushed me.
High upland thunder, girdle the earth!
Pitch-winged cloud, bless me!
Lightning, send a message!
Hallowed be the world. The night is its companion.
So, water. Flow forth! And you, misfortune, rage!

— Vasyl Stus
(Trans. by Marco Carynnyk)


Photo taken after Stus’ 1980 arrest.

Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus was arrested in 1972 during a Soviet campaign to silence Ukrainian dissidents. He was subsequently charged with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and sentenced to five years of hard labor and three years of internal exile in Kolyma. He returned to Kiev after he completed his sentence in 1972, but was re-arrested in 1980. He was charged again with anti-Soviet activities and given a ten-year sentence in the hard-labor prison Perm-36, to be followed by an additional five years of internal exile. Stus died of emaciation on September 4, 1985, during his fifth year in prison. Soviet authorities destroyed an estimated 600 poems written by Stus; a handful of verses were smuggled out of the prison camps.