The Chronicles of a Collapse

This is not a fairytale,
not a cautionary tale.
It’s a chronicle of a collapse in all of its details.
It’s the freedom that you sold.
It’s the freedom that we bought.
It’s the stories of the lives of the people we forgot.

He was a 40-year-old
army colonel and a dad.
Served his country in two wars, gave it everything he had.
Then one lovely summer day,
at the height of his career,
he came to work to find out that his homeland disappeared,
That the medals he received,
and the oath that he swore,
And the code by which he lived didn’t matter anymore.
So he packed up all his things,
and he drove himself back home,
And he sat there on the couch, sat there thinking all alone…
And he looked down at his hands.
And he looked up at his gun.
He thought – This is not the end, because he still had a son.
Well, the army fell apart,
and he had no other skills.
Finding work can be quite hard for someone who’s trained to kill.
He had picked up washing floors,
so his family could eat.
All was well until he ran into four punk kids in the street.
They were bored and they were drunk.
They were in the mood to play.
He said: I’m ‎a colonel, son, please get on out of my way!
Just a soldier on his own
against four kids with a bat.
They had shattered every bone, and they left him there dead.

That’s the freedom that you sold.
That’s the freedom that we bought.
That’s the story of a life of somebody we forgot.
It is not a fairytale,
not a cautionary tale.
It’s a chronicle of a collapse in all of its details.

A physicist wi‎th a world name
He couldn’t figure ‎out the math.
The university had not paid scientist salaries for months.
Of the research assistants that he had
three left, one wound up dead.
There are riots on the streets each day. There are four hour lines for bread.
Equations blooming in his mind
are so precise and so right,
but he cannot afford to pay his bills. His wife cries every night.
He focuses on his research
in a futile attempt to cope,
though all his funding has been pulled. He cannot buy a microscope.
When the bus drivers went on strike
the state had budget for their checks,
yet the nuclear submarine research somehow fell through the cracks.
He doesn’t know how to fight.
He’s no good at commerce or crime.
A foreign firm expressed an interest – he thought it was genuine.
So excited there is someone
willing to discuss his work
he talked‎. They listened, and they‎ nodded, and they wrote down every word.
He had been brought up on ideals
of human progress and world peace,
as the result, he sold nuclear secrets ‎to the terrorists.

That was not a fairytale,
not a cautionary tale.
It’s a chronicle of a collapse in all of its details.
It’s the freedom that you sold.
It’s the freedom that we bought.
It’s the story of a life of somebody we forgot.

Her nickname was Babe. Me and her
used to hang out after school.
She said: I want to be a prostitute, because that shit is cool.
I asked her: Are you sure
that’s the life you want to lead?
She shouted: Don’t preach to me! I’m not your daughter, not a kid.
I didna ask for your advice,
and I don’t care what you think.
All my classmates are doing it. They all have cash and nicer things.
I’m sick and tired of being broke.
I want to live like everyone.
It’s just a little bit of work. Besides, I can help out my mom.
I begged her: Babe, at least let me
set you up at a nice hotel.
She laughed and told me to butt out, she could take care of herself.
She went and got her hair permed.
Red mini skirt and red high heels.
She tried so hard to imitate the hookers from the Western films.
This was in 1992,
the year the Iron Curtain fell.
The government disintegrated. Streets descended into hell.
My parents yanked me out of the
country to give me a better life.
She was eleven. That’s the last time I saw my best friend alive.

That’s the freedom that you sold.
That’s the freedom that we bought.
That’s the story of a life of somebody we forgot.
It is not a fairytale,
not a cautionary tale.
It’s a chronicle of a collapse in all of its details.

Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2017

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Calling all my monsters

I am calling upon all my monsters and beasts out there,

On the creatures that lurk, and the glittering eyes in the dark;

There are few of us left, soon we will disappear forever.

Well, at least we have lived to the fullest, and left our mark!

Brothers, do you recall how the grasslands stretched to the horizon,

And the deafening roar of countless wings overhead?

Back when Rome was a village, and Britain – the Emerald Island;

Before we gave up on our future, and buried our dead.


Where have you been hiding?  In nightmares and in fairytales?

On the pages of fantasy books, and in video games?

Barely scraping along in the wild, and working retail –

Trying hard to forget what we were once, and our shame.


I will not let you have it your way!  I will not let you go.

You are all that remains of the battles that we fought and lost.

I have made it my calling to reach out to every lost soul,

Offer each wraith a home, and a cloak to each bare-threaded ghost.


We are ashes and dust of the Inquisition bonfires.

We have seen those we loved hunted down and burned at the stake.

We somehow survived through the rise and the fall of empires.

And you, people, seem set to repeat all of our mistakes.


You extend your lifespans, but without death – there is no progress.

You are toying with plagues.  You’re aiming your guns at the stars.

You deny our magic, yet meddle with magical forces.

It’s as if what you want is to fade to extinction, like us.


If you had seen the wars we once waged – Oh, the glorious slaughter!

Our proud rebellions without a reason in sight….

None of that matters now; it’s clay that’s been washed off by water,

Leaving only an ache in the wounds, and a void inside.


There is so much we could teach you, if you’d only listen,

But you will remain deaf to our words until it is too late.

Like teenagers, young races don’t care for ancient wisdoms;

Satisfied with their own ignorance, and their hate.


Yet you cannot erase us.  Our flesh has been mixed in with soil,

Dying screams of our women and children have seeped into stones,

It is our blood you seek every time you are drilling for oil,

And beneath the asphalt of your suburbs are fields of our bones.


Orange glow of a fire and pale electrical glow

Both cast off our shadows, as our legends unfold.

We are the archetypes that exist within every man’s soul,

And we will live forever, or as long as stories are told….

Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2017


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The Poplar Waltz

                                    Dedicated to Denny

I never gave up loving you, I buried you inside.

I close my eyes and see the ‎poplar trees and the sunlight,

The gravel of the road by the cemetery gate,

And all those black cars, single row, in a motorcade,

And all the black cars in a row in the motorcade.

I was eleven, you – fourteen, the year the war began.

Back then – I thought I was a teen, I thought you were a man.

The children’s dance at the resort. The longing for romance.

My palms got sweaty, my breath caught, when you asked me to dance,

My palms got sweaty, my heart stopped, when you asked me to dance.

Your hair seemed golden, your eyes – quartz. I’ve never danced before.

The band had played a slow waltz. We swirled across the floor. 

The sapphire waves. The orange ‎sun. The rustle of the sand…

It took two nations and a gun to make a girl’s dream end,

It took two governments, one gun, to make a girl’s dream end.

The year was 1989, before the Wall came down.

The next day, everything seemed fine, you rode your bike to town.

The first news of gunfire came in. Our peaceful world was gone.

People were running. No one seemed to know what’s going on.

People were crying. No one seemed to know what’s going on.

I can’t forget the terror in your parents’ eyes that day,

Or how your sister’s hair turned from black to ashen gray.

They brought you on a stretcher, and the sheet was stained in red.

I blankly stared, with the waltz still playing in my head.

I stared, and the stupid waltz kept playing in my head.

Denny! – you are a part of all I am; both love and hate.

I should’ve saved you from that brawl between two bickering states.

The Soviet Union would collapse and the free world would win.

That victory was bought by us: one boy’s life, one girl’s dream.

The price for that was paid by us: one boy’s life, one girl’s dream.

Somewhere in a war-torn, small land by a vacant sea,

Still stands the wreckage of the hall where you had danced with me,

The cemetery, and your grave, to which I cannot get.

Only the poplar trees are waltzing there at sunset.

I know the poplar trees are waltzing there at sunset.

Julie Deshtor 2017

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The fear had pecked a hole inside…

The fear had pecked a hole inside
With its long pointed beak.
My fists went limp – I couldn’t fight.
My mouth wouldn’t speak.
I saw a threat beneath each tree,
Behind each closed door.
I chained my will and tossed the key,‎
Then I padlocked my soul.‎
It’s not for me that I had feared –
I’ve seen it all before.‎
I‎ts just that those I held dear
Became pawns in this war.
I censored every step and look,
I questioned every smile,
I fled my castle, burned my book,
I went dead for a while.
And I had tried, I truly tried
To learn to lie and hate.‎
I failed at both. I’ve gotten tired
Of always being afraid. ‎
I still have friends, I still have strength,
And truths worth fighting for.
I cannot let this happenstance
Consume me to the core.
I’ve played the fear game and found
That I am not impressed.
It’s time to ‎get up, don my crown,
And do what queens do best.
Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2015‎
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Lot’s Wife

I have been turned into a pillar of salt.
The sky is coming down.
It’s raining ambers. All around
Are falling shards of our shattered world.

Our city, our city burns.
Our palisades succumb to hungry fires.
Bodies light up and fade, like fireflies.
The streets glow crimson, paved with molten stones.

Our garden and the house where we lived,
The little church where we had stood before the altar,
Beyond my grasp.
A statue carved of grief,
I am inanimate, I cannot alter
The judgment that’s been passed
On everything we’ve spent a lifetime building,
Too horrified to not turn back and cast
One final glance at our doomed city.

Defiant, disobedient, I forgot
The Angel’s warning.  ‎
I refuse to go.
So full of love, I’d rather turn to salt.
And there’s no species of God
That could command or force me to abandon
This city built with our sweat and soul.

Copyright 2015 @ Julie Deshtor

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‎Я мечусь, как зверь за решеткой

‎Я мечусь, как зверь за решеткой,
‎бьюсь об прутья, пугая толпу.
Ярость жидким металлом в глотке: 
“Отпустите, я так не могу!”

‎Этот век, этот мир – все чужое.
Всe равно я порву эту цепь, 
легендарной свистящей стрелою 
устремлюсь я в далекую степь.

Оставляю вам ваши знания, 
технологии и прогресс. 
Здесь усыпан простор цветами, 
здесь курганы хранят молчание 
под лазурным шатром небес.

‎Здесь монголы и скифы дремлят,
здесь полынь на крови взросла, 
здесь ласкает могилы тень от 
пролетающего орла.

‎Здесь пронизана тьма ночная 
конским ржаньем и пением птиц. 
Здесь могучий поток Дуная 
Рим от варваров отделяет, 
словно призрак былых границ.

‎Ветер здесь заглушает стоны, 
дробь копыт, эхо битв лихих. 
‎Здесь‎ ‎веков пласты – в чернозёме, 
в азиатских чертах‎ моих.

Отпустите меня на волю 
‎здесь, в степи. Дайте мне коня 
без седла (никчему седло мне), 
и оставьте в покое меня.

Copyright 2015 @ Julie Deshtor

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My leaves are green, although my trunk has splintered,
And my old bark is blackened and decayed.
I live alone, surrounded by buildings.
I just stand here in the wind, and sway.

The sky is not as blue as I remember.
When snow comes, it never seems to last.
The winds are not as bitter in November,
The soil – not as sweet as in the past.

When I first sprouted here with my brothers,
My crown barely peaked above the grass.
Large mammoths herds were grazing the horizons.
We were afraid that they would trample us.

I have seen giant sloths and giant bears
As a small sapling reaching for the sun,
But they’ve been gone for thousands of years.
Sometimes I wonder – where have they gone?

Then humans came, with their stone-tipped arrows.
We laughed at them – the ugly, naked beasts.
I realize that we should’ve been scared,
But back then we weren’t scared in the least

For we were young, and racing for the clouds.
We’ve grown too big, we thought, for them to hurt.
There were so many of us, and we were so proud,
And we knew so little of the world.

Mankind brought death to us death by axe and fire,
And thus the slow holocaust began:
Each year, as I grew a little higher,
My brothers fell around me, one by one.

Yet still I grew – us trees are meant to grow.
Nobody asks us when, or where, or how.
I stored up black hatred in my soul
As I fed on the shit from their cows

Until I was the last one left, the highest
Point on the land, and now it was my turn
To make them pay. They burned us down with fire;
I, too, would use the fire and make them burn!

One summer night, as lightening was dancing
From cloud to cloud, and the grass was dry,
I reached into the heavens with my branches
And snatched the lightening out of the sky.

But it had turned on me and scorched my crown;
My very core splintered from the blow,
And as the burning bits of me rained down,
I wondered – how did I get so low?

I meant to kill! I wanted to destroy –
But I was just a tree, how could I win?
In agony, I cursed the very soil
From which I grew, as flames gnawed on my limbs.

I fell apart, defeated and decrepit,
Engulfed in unimaginable pain.
That’s when the humans hurried to my aid;
Those very humans came to fight the flames!

Oh, I was helpless, I was ripe for slaughter,
But they saved me. Compassionate and kind
They soothed my burning stumps with cooling water,
And so that day I made peace with mankind.

I gained a new insight from my ordeal,
An understanding hit me, as I fell:
I realized how small mankind must feel
When my own folly brought me to their level.

I saw that some of them weren’t like the others.
And who was I to choose which ones should live?
Besides, their death would not bring back my brothers,
I doubt it would even ease my grief.

The fire broke my trunk, but healed my spirit.
I wouldn’t die, I hung on by the roots.
The following spring first tender leaves appeared
As I reached for sky with brand new shoots.

The humans cheered at my resurrection;
They were amazed I managed to survive.
I will admit, I basked in their affection –
I was so grateful just to be alive!

A truce was reached: they took away the cows:
A little victory gained from my defeat.
They built a park around me, and now
They bring their offspring to play at my feet.

As their generations come and go,
I watch their city gradually expand.
If humans are like trees and need to grow –
They’ve earned the right to grow on my land.

Copyright 2014 @ Julie Deshtor

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