Happy Water Pt. 1 and 2

Olena Boryshpolets and Aodhán Ridenour

*Part 1 translated from Ukrainian by Oleksander Frazé-Frazénko 

Part 1 

He is still sitting at my desk
under the Ukrainian flag
writing a novel and shaking his head, 
I don't bother him unnecessarily,
I don't make moves so bold,
he is an American,
twenty-seven years old. 

Back home, I got married at his age. 
Clash glasses for good luck!
I wanted that empty sound so badly. 
When the village council registrar said: 

"Now greet each other as husband and wife" 
my fiancé shook my hand. 

«Дуже гарно» (Very nice

We drove in a red car,
I was in a short red dress,
with red heels,
through the village all the way to the French Boulevard. 
Near the Black Sea,
between the botanical gardens,
our mothers wrapped us in towels. 

«Як справи?» (How are you?

Today I can't stand it anymore 
and ask him to help me
with the stove,
with the water, with the font, 
he wants a dog, 
I talk to a raccoon
that comes to the trash can in the dark, 
photos of my destroyed city
fly like invisible stones
in the name of the Red Cross,
wedding glasses and UNESCO

I put nuts and honey on the American table,
the Russians are bombing and bombing and bombing my house, and he says 

«кохана» (my love

in a way that doesn't make me feel better, 
only he doesn't know it,
and I lean my head
on the tattooed bat 
on his chest,
and the bat bites me. 

«Гаразд» (okay)

His tenth Ukrainian word at night and English in the morning: 

"I am hurt, but not like you,
I am watching your war on the screen, 
very far away. 

«Лелека» (A stork)

Why don't we give you more weapons?"

«Отакої» (WOW)

The raccoon did not come for four terrible nights.

«Я тебе хочу» (I want you)

Come to me, my American dream, 
heavenly eyes, here is my neck, 

good night, Odesa, 

your children run across the world’s streets 
and pour happy water at my feet. 

Part 2 

Every meal is special to me.
I hope to remember them all.
Which is why I take pictures,
prayers of thanks for pleasing aesthetics. 

How do we sit so happily in spite of everything? 

To her, food is food; not worthy of photography. 
“Normal,” she says, “It’s not interesting,” 
then I pour us two more drinks 
and she goes to smoke a cigarette, 
her Marlboro Menthol 100’s
the descendants of
our desperate implications. 

I have many favorite things 
and they change often 
depending on my mood
 which changes frequently. 

“You are here, here, many people. You like this.”
“I really don’t,” I counter. “In fact, it makes me miserable sometimes.” 
What makes her miserable is that her brother
disappears for days on end,
fighting with guns and cannons a terrorist paler than bone. 

“I don’t want to convey my mood to you,” 
but what she means is that she can’t. 

She was married to another man
for what must have felt like ten long years 

and I can hardly recall
if I have ever done my laundry at a lover’s house. 

I don’t want to ask her
but she probably doesn’t 
know the word for ‘regret.’ 

Instead I say “I love you.” 

She speaks to an old raccoon 
when I’m not around,
asks if I am worthy,
asks logistic specific 
questions regarding 
the airspeed velocity of a WhatsApp message. 

Our headwaters are fed by 
ontological wretchedness 
and many melted affections. 
I flow into her like a river, 
and she dips her feet into me. 


Aodhán Ridenour

Aodhán Ridenour studies English: Creative Writing, Spanish, and Art at Slippery Rock University. His periodicals have been published in Life in the Villa, and his art in Illuminate. He served as editor-in-chief of The Phoenix, and is an associate editor for SLAB.

Aodhán's Articles on KGB LitMag


Olena Boryshpolets

Olena Boryshpolets is a Ukrainian poet, writer, journalist, actress, culture manager, and laureate of the Konstantin Paustovsky Municipal Literary Prize for the collection of poems "Blue Star”, a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, and co-founder of the Public Organization "Creation Without Borders". After the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine in February 2022, she went to Poland and together with other Ukrainian women told the European audience about the war and its consequences in the Polish-Ukrainian play "Life in the event of war". She is a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum and a Research Scholar at the Global Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Olena's Articles on KGB LitMag

Olena Boryshpolets