Safety Concerns

Oksana Maksymchuk
| poetry


Are you an immigrant, asks my son’s teacher
when I drop him off. Perhaps I seem
a little harsh, I walk too quickly,
my teeth aren’t right.


He pushes and shoves, he can’t
keep his hands to himself.
Around here, we teach kids
how to stay safe.


To her, I wear a sign that says:
I don’t teach my child how to be
safe, we immigrants aren’t properly
concerned with safety.


This explains why we choose
dangerous boat rides, get bolted up
in trucks, endure crimes, our most
intimate borders crossed.


My son’s small torso
feels like a cage. Inside it
a stirring of a sob, then—shards of
broken English.

Oksana Maksymchuk is the author of two award-winning books of poetry in the Ukrainian language, Xenia (2005) and Catch (2009). Her translations from Ukrainian and Russian have appeared in the Best European Fiction series (Dalkey Archive Press), London MagazineWords Without BordersPoetry International, and others. Maksymchuk won first place in the 2004 Richmond Lattimore and in 2014 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender translation competitions. She is a co-editor of Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, a NEH-funded anthology of poetry (forthcoming). She teaches philosophy at the University of Arkansas.

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