Poetry Town: “The Devil’s Playground”

John R. Deitrick

As the world watched, stunned and paralyzed,

the blitzkrieg has begun, tanks and trucks and weapon carriers

lumbering like great bears towards the capital, Lviv,

liberate the oppressed citizens of Ukraine

“Nazis and Drugged Leaders”

at the head of this country,

no, not a country at all,

just a capricious and misbehaved part of the “mother country”.

But the madman from Moscow miscalculated

the will, the strength, the conviction and the perseverance of the citizens,

their love of themselves and their country – Say the name, Ukraine! —

and their courage, bravery and willingness to die rather than yield.

The madman was especially mistaken about the character of his president:

The comic actor who played the president became president,

a man with an iron will stronger than his own,

a man who loves freedom and values,

a man who loves his people,

a man who wouldn’t turn around to get to safety,

a man who would fight to the death,

a man who would not submit to a Moscow killer.

Say his name – Volodomyr Zelensky!


As the world watched, stunned and surprised,

the president and the people — men and women, soldiers and citizens —

began to mobilize, not to give in and surrender but to fight:

for their country, for each other, for their families,

for their values, for their dignity, for their honour.

The heavy bears began to stumble and slow down,

as they took punch after punch after punch.

No flower petals, only an angry and determined resistance:

citizens standing in front of tanks, daring them to advance,

soldiers bravely and brazenly dismounting tanks and trucks

with rockets and mortars fired from the shoulder, destroying bridges,

and slowing the pace of their enemies,

then stopping them in their tracks.

“Are you scarred?” “Fear, yes! Only fools are not afraid.

“You came to our country, now go to hell!”

“Russian warship, fuck you

As the world watched and cheered, the bears, frustrated

and blocked, began to fall back on brute force,

well, not real bears but these bears, costumed, neutered bears,

bears who fight dirty when the fight gets too tough,

too much to handle, bullies who give sand, who

try to break the Karate Kid’s legs rather than fight fair.


And so the world watched and wept as the carnage began:

missiles and rockets and bombs flying furiously

in every corner of the country – nothing sacred,

gratuitously smashing buildings and people to smithereens,

fire and smoke pouring out of the windows,

rising rubble, high floors, craters deep enough to

hold a few cars or maybe a bus or a small yacht;

mortars and missiles striking schools, hospitals,

buses and cars, many of which carry people,

even as they tried to escape the massacre:

A little girl singing “Let It Go” in an air raid shelter.

A little boy walking, crying, looking for his parents.

A bloody woman in a candy store that exploded,

screaming in anguish, tears streaming down her face,

“I just saw my husband explode to pieces!”

Pregnant mother and unborn baby murdered

in a maternity ward razed by missiles.


A theater housing hundreds of terrified citizens — –

women, children and old people — reduced to rubble

In a heartbeat.

A son, on his knees, sobbing over his mother’s body,

covered with a bloody sheet.

A once lovely family trying to run away –

mother, daughter and son —

lying sprawled in their own blood

in a street hit by a mortar.

The bodies of those in a line of bread lie motionless in the street.

It’s the devil’s playground, hell on earth

Where evil meets good: the ultimate existential dilemma.

My God, my God, my God!

The world watched and cried,

but he did nothing to stop the carnage, the slaughter of innocents,

no, not nothing,

not enough.


Is the Lone Ranger coming to save the day?

The marines are coming?

Is God coming?

They and we ask ourselves:

What will the morning bring?

What will the night bring?

Postscript: News from the front in Bucha:

After the departure of the safari hunters,

Bodies lie askew in the streets,

men with their hands tied behind their backs,

some executed with bullets in the back of the neck,

some decapitated.

In some houses, women lie motionless, some raped,

some with their tongues torn out, all dead.

Children also lie there, visibly tortured, then murdered.

Elsewhere, bagged bodies, some with their hands or feet

emerging from underground,

lie with sad dignity in mass graves.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh. . .

John R. Deitrick is a retired English teacher from Becker College. He lives in Oxford.

Harold B. McConnell