They’re Planting Tulips in Kharkiv


           By Andrew Hidas

The news tells us of mass
tulip plantings in Kharkiv,
just one more Ukrainian city
bringing new definition
to the word “beleaguered”
in this long spring of horrors.

I picture those tulips tightly clutched
in fists, shaken and ascending to
the heavens as an ultimate “Fuck you!”
to the bomb-droppers and missile senders
who become blinded by the color explosion
of tulip petals hurled aloft in anger, defiance
and hope—blessed, dubious, inexplicable hope.

In our front garden the other day,
the world’s most purposeful sparrow
hops across the gravel, sweeping
up dead leaves in her beak till they
obscure her entire head, a holy payload
destined to welcome life in a nearby tree.

I marvel at her madness of intention,
the sacred instinct for survival and comfort
guiding her every move like no missile
guidance system ever afforded man.

“Russia unlikely to increase Donbas
advance in next month,” another
news source tells us, and I wonder
if this is good news or bad for Ukrainians
not advanced upon but shelled from afar
anyway for the sheer offense of existing.

Next month will take us to mid-June,
the world flush with the leaves even
then beginning their long cycle to doom,
the end of which is, in the way of such things,
the best possible news for sparrows.




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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact:

Tulips by Slava Stupachenko, St. Petersburg, Russia

8 comments to They’re Planting Tulips in Kharkiv

  • Robert Spencer  says:


    Hiroshima slept.
    Suddenly, a light, so bright, so hot
    streamed from a mushroom cloud.
    Death exploded.
    Blindness followed.
    Skin dripped from bodies
    like wax from a lit candle.
    On sidewalks, shadowy profiles,
    were burnt into the cement,
    a haunting reminder of war’s imprint.
    Yet, a few weeks later, an oleander bloomed.
    Green peeked through the grey.

    A near treeless tundra shivers year-round.
    Each spring moss covers it
    like a quilt.
    And the birds return.

    Lower Manhattan bustled.
    When they hit,
    the Trade Center’s twins moaned.
    Soon, their steeled skeletons collapsed
    like a tattered house of cards.
    A fog-like pall crept down shaken streets.
    Yet, nearby a still pear tree breathed.
    Branches amputated.
    Roots bent and broken.
    Bark littered its bed
    like shattered glass.
    Today, it bears sweetness.

    Amsterdam’s tulips never paled
    beneath goosestepping Nazi hatred.

    Paradise watched.
    Unchecked flames raced through the town,
    devouring all in its paths.
    Homes, now orphaned, became ash.
    Yet, wild hollyhock welcomed the fire.
    Heat germinates its seeds.
    Life hangs on.

    Plants can’t grow in the Marianas Trench.
    Yet, in its sunless abyss,
    bacteria mimic the plants.
    Their nutrients feed life.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Variations on a theme, Robert; I like this very much. I vividly remember reading John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” at a very young age—7th, 8th grade tops. I’d espied it among my mom’s books and decided to take a peek. Rather than devouring it, I think it devoured me. Gave me lots to think about at a tender age regarding war, justice, justification, moral compromise, man’s inhumanity to man. The world never quite looked the same afterwards—and that’s not even to mention the Holocaust, both of those events so close in time to our dawning awareness regarding the world out there.

  • mary graves  says:

    Oh Andrew. I have thought of you so often during this war. I hope your loved ones are safe. I Love the planting tulips idea, that is so like you!
    Hugs to you and keep up the great work, the song was wonderful too.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Very nice to hear from you, Mary. Many writers have written of gardens & plants as metaphor for pretty much everything in life. At this age, I feel like I finally understand them. Hope your garden is flourishing this spring, right along with your life. Cheers!

  • Robert Miller  says:

    Hope to see the “Collected Works of Andrew Hidas” in the near future.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Haha, I will take that as a compliment, but if it were to happen, I’d likely need someone standing over me with a whip, and we’d have to remove “near” from that sentence…

  • kirkthill  says:

    A jumbleation of excerpts from some famous war poems that I read after contemplating your poem.

    And the rocket’s red glare
    The bombs bursting in air
    Gave proof through the night
    That In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin.
    The darkness crumbles away.
    It is the same old druid Time as ever,
    Only a live thing leaps my hand,
    A queer sardonic rat,
    As I pull the parapet’s poppy to stick behind my ear
    A poet in love is the only hope.
    Keeping the fire alive
    She passes the night of cruel cold. She sows half-lived dreams,
    Rivers and mountains
    She preserves the marigolds
    In the bookmarks
    She stuccoes the mists of every kiss
    On the windowpane. When the dawn returns
    With the footprints of refugees
    Returning to their homeland
    She exhausts with her abandoned night
    And let the world roll on.
    They find the hope of warmth
    Preserved in alphabets and
    Punctuation. From the night till the dawn
    A poet’s pen is the weft of rain
    It weaves hope for the men
    Who have been rendered refugees today,
    Tomorrow, they will come back again.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Wow! A creative work in its own right, I must say, Kirk. “Collage poetry,” of a sort, and I don’t know whether that’s a “thing” or not, but I am moved to look it up and think about it some more. I sometimes snag a line or two from another poet as a form of homage, but have never delved into this greatly more expanded form where one uses ONLY others’ poetry and puts it together in a new way. Thanks for doing this!

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