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How poetry can help navigate times of war and conflict

As the world watches a war play out tragically in Ukraine, The Show would like to spotlight some contemporary poetry from that region of the world.

Literary Hub recently featured the poems of Iya Kiva, one of several young poets there who simultaneously describes the “hopelessness of war and hope in a country seeking an independent identity.”

Hear Iya Kiva's poem read by Alberto Ríos


Alberto Ríos is Arizona’s own state poet laureate. He told The Show he often turns to poetry in times of violence and conflict.

His lens is far from the border of Ukraine and Russia, but instead on another border, closer to home — the U.S.-Mexico border. He grew up there, in Nogales, Arizona, and since, he’s watched it become what he likens to a militarized war zone in its own right.

In his poem, “I Do Not Go Away,” Ríos writes about the violence there.

The Show spoke with Ríos to learn about the role of poetry in times of war and in times of conflict.

I Do Not Go Away
by Alberto Ríos

You have terror and I have tears.
In this cruel way, we are for each other.

We are at war. You always win.
But I do not go away.

You shoot me again. Again, I do not go away.
You shoot with bullets, but you have nothing else.

I fight back. I shoot you
With fragments of childhood, where you played the hero.

I shoot you with memories of your mother
And your little sister, Maritza.

I shoot you with spring in the rolling mountains
And the taste of plantain bananas and sugar.

You do not fall down dead—
You can kill me, where all I can do

Is hold up the mirror of remembering to you—
The mirror of everything you have done.

You set fire to me with gasoline.
I set fire to you with the memory of your first love.

You cut my hands off. I cut your hands off
With the way you saw them disappear

When you were diving into the warm water of the lake,
The summer of swimming with your brother.

Do you remember the names of the left-for-dead?
The damaged, the hounded, the hurt?

Do you remember my name?

      Your fist is hard.
      My name is crying.

      You strike a match.
      My name is cringe.

      You lift your foot.
      My name is pain.

      You wake up.
      My name is closed eyes.

Your smile mimics the size of the opening
On the side of a head, a crude opening

That a mean needle will stitch up tonight.
Your arm laughs at me with its muscle.

All this. All these tears you have made,
This water you have found in the desert,

All this blood you have drawn
From the bodies of so many who needed it.

You win. You have always won.
All I can do is not go away.

Not go away is my name.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.