Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

I recently heard from poet Bob Newman, on his return from a trip to the Ukraine. He had been among the delegates to a commemoration of the late Vera Rich, held on the tenth anniversary of her death. This included a poetry-reading at the Ivan Franko University in Lviv. Bob told me that included in that reading was my poem with the above title, which had been published originally in issue 50 of Manifold, the poetry magazine Vera had founded, and which she had edited for many years before her death. I wrote it as a tribute to her.

As I have reported before, I got to know Vera Rich late in her life. We corresponded by email and on poetry forums. I always took her critiques of my poetry on the chin – she was very forthright – and I knew that if she praised something it must therefore be very good. Occasionally we had fun – just see our exchange of ‘Mongolian’ limericks.

Just before she died, Vera engaged me to read through her translation of the Ukrainian epic The Death of Cain by Ivan Franko. Unfortunately we never completed the work on that poem.

Anyway, here is the sonnet I wrote to Vera ten years ago. It describes her joyful arrival in heaven.

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Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

Hey – Taras! Is that really you, old friend?
Then that was not the Dnepr I just crossed
But Jordan. This is every journey’s end –
The halls of Paradise – and I’m not lost.

They say the Lavra’s gates remit all sins,
So I have walked through three times, to be safe,
And now discover here my rest begins,
My limbs are strong, my shoes no longer chafe.

Good Lord – this air is clear! Elysium
Reminds me of Ukraine and Belarus;
So this is what they mean by “Kingdom Come” –
But Taras, what will now be asked of us?

Eternal worship? Ah – in adoration –
The seraphs’ hymns deserve a good translation!

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Vera Rich 2005