By Grace Liang
10th grade, The York School, ON
Second place contest winner
With lines from "In the Trenches of Ukraine’s Forever War" by James Verini, a Pulitzer Center reporting project
near Donbas, a sunflower field
splinters beneath billowing smoke.
trenchworks slash through
the land with scars.
rockets land near gardens, their
explosions ripening into echoes.
gas pipes burst onto
sidewalks and blood covers them
shrapnel slices through crouched
and furrowed brows.
and coffins close.
Pisky is unmade into
—three blasts strike two soldiers
and only one is left alive.
from Luhansk, a family flees—carrying fear as
their heaviest baggage.
in Zolote, a lieutenant threatens to bury a villager
by her home—as if the soil was not already
teeming with the dead.
the people who want to return to the
past clash against the people
who do not—
both offering destruction at
the altar of a nation’s
as the world washes its
hands clean of the blood
the will to fight to run dry like
a burst vein
the bombed walls to gape like
the war unending to fester like a rotten gash in
this place as wronged as one could find.
Grace Liang is a student at The York School, in Toronto, Canada. She is passionate about writing and in awe of its power to transform minds and hearts. She hopes that this poem can shed light on the struggles and lives of those caught in this prolonged conflict, and the individual experiences and perspectives often overlooked in coverage of war.
Read more winning entries from the 2022 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.