“Pysanky” means “to write,” used in making Ukrainian Easter eggs
by Martin Willitts Jr
I make Ukrainian eggs for Easter, piercing an egg,
draining it out slowly.
I boil the eggs.
I paint traditional designs for the customary Easter program,
where I will carry the eggs to be blessed in church.
I have choices in pysanky eggs.
Some are talismans for prosperity, healing, or protection.
I use beeswax and dyes for my creations.
I could make an octopus star, called the “ruzha,”
or the rotating cross, the “svarga” to represent the universe.
I could use a vertical star to mean time —
the beginning and end, the alpha and omega,
the joy and suffering of the resurrection.
I could add the water symbol for lifegiving,
the force of nature, the cleansing,
the purification. All I need is a wavy line.
Or maybe, I should add the grapevine for renewal.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian woman is picking up
the scattered pieces of her former life.
Her son was shot while trying to surrender.
The mayor was bound behind his back and shot.
Smoky ruins rise from her desperate hands.
She finds an unharmed egg the enemy missed
while ram-sacking her house, tossing empty bottles,
pulling out drawers, stealing her underwear.
Her front door is pulled off its hinges.
She scrounges some water, enough to boil the egg.
She chooses the sheep symbol for innocence
and boundless love — because, what else remains?
She carries the egg like a sacrifice, a prayer
for a future she cannot at the moment imagine.
She wears a babushka, tied as tight as a prayer.
She finds the shattered walls of the church
where she used to give confession.
She kneels slowly at the destroyed altar, and prays.
She prays for those dead, those wounded,
those who must go on without someone.
Although we are an ocean apart, we both pray
that the world will know justice and renewal someday.
I bring my eggs to the Ukrainian church to be blessed.
Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has 21 full-length collections including the Blue Light Award 2019, The Temporary World, Harvest Time (Deerbrook Press, 2021) Leaving Nothing Behind (Fernwood Press, 2021), Meditations on Thomas Cole’s Paintings (Aldrich Press, 2021,) Not Only the Extraordinary are Exiting the Dream World (Flowstone Press, 2021) and All Wars Are the Same War (FutureCycle Press, 2021).