Minus Future

Russian-American poet A. Molotkov responds to the war

Minus Future

Isn’t this a beautiful
world with love and damaged
bodies? How many
dead Russian
soldiers equal one
Ukrainian civilian, in
Putin’s head? And who
made Putin? I didn’t
stop Putin. I
didn’t stay
behind to prevent
Putin. And aren’t ruins
louder than whole
buildings? An old
woman in Lviv,
a child in Mariupol, a father
pointing a stinger
missile, his arms
strong from the cello, a symphony
of death growing
in his head. My mother
watches Russian TV; she
thinks they are
here to save us. And if
Zelensky is Jewish,
where are the Nazis, if not
inside Putin? Hitler
opined, “All propaganda
has to be popular and has to
accommodate itself
to the comprehension of the least
intelligent.” And if
you’re popular because
you’ve staged a terrorist
or two and faked
a few elections, and insecure
about what’s next, why not
invade a country
or two while playing
the victim? Why not embrace
myth and revisionist
history while the future
is voided? What future in a
country that offers nothing but
oil, gas and death? My dad
says I’m
a traitor. My mom just
cries in the kitchen. We
connect on Facetime. I’m
not sure how they still
access it. What
face is this? Whose
time is this? And if I’m
the speaker, it’s easy
for me to say. My own
mother is dead. I left
in 1990; in ‘93
she approved my choice. I didn’t
stay behind to prevent
Putin. If I had,
I would have failed. So what’s
the right answer? Who are we
the truth is removed?
Who are we
to remove it? The old
woman in Mariupol is no
longer there. Her
heart just
stopped from grief. And all
I can do is
keep refreshing the news. One of my
sisters lives in Belarus, the other
in Ukraine. They don’t tell us
what’s going on. My son
has been drafted. We are
killing our own.
My son died defending
Russia from Russia. When new
history replaces the old,
who will have
written it? Who
buys that future? Who
pays for it? And while
we didn’t
how many were
silenced? My daughter
was raped by Russian
soldiers. While we
waited for the war
to end, how many
killed? When we
spoke, how little


This poem is offered with grief for the Ukrainian people and with optimism for their future. I’m inspired by their bravery and by the resolve of President Zelensky. Russia is the black hole that, under Putin, has no future. 

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Photo Credit:
Laura Stahman

A. Molotkov’s poetry collections are “The Catalog of Broken Things”, “Application of Shadows”, “Synonyms for Silence” and “Future Symptoms” (forthcoming from The Word Works); his memoir “A Broken Russia Inside Me” about growing up in the USSR and making a new life in America is due out from Propertius. Please visit him at AMolotkov.com.


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