I didn’t know the word
until I found it in the newspaper
in a story about Ukraine after
Putin’s invasion.

In a one-sentence paragraph in a piece
written by Andrew E. Kramer and
Marc Santora, on Saturday, December
17th, 2022, a front-page story entitled


with the subheading


and the paragraph I’m
writing about isn’t
on the front page, it’s on page 6:

“With their troops losing a large
chunk of territory they had
conquered in eastern and south-
ern Ukraine, Russian forces this
fall dramatically increased their
aerial attacks on civilian infra-
structure across the country, in an
apparent bid to terrorize and im-
miserate the population and sap
its will to fight.”

I still
have not
looked up

that from its context, as
we say, one may gather

days and nights the

Russian commanders and Putin
want Ukrainians to suffer. And
“immiserate” is not in my old (1979)
two-volume Compact Oxford English Dictionary

and I think of the freezing hands of
all those Ukrainians, how it would be difficult
to even turn the pages of any book.

And they’re probably
all the newspapers, if they have any.

Using OneLook Dictionary, online, I find six
dictionaries offering to open the door to
“immiserate.” Before looking at one, my thought

is about how here I am, in my home, reading
about the unimaginable hardships in Ukraine for
Ukrainians, then I am writing, too, about a

relatively obscure word. And the room I’m in
suddenly fills with such bright sunlight it almost
hurts my eyes─the sun must’ve been behind a cloud.

Okay, my poem won’t change anything
in Ukraine or Russia or anywhere

and I’m writing it anyway. And have yet to read
any definition.


John Levy





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