Wednesday, 20 April 2022

#WEP April challenge - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall - Ode to the Innocents - Glory to Ukraine.

 Hello all!

It's time for the WEP April 2022 challenge. This month for the Year of Music, we have Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.


From the blurb, courtesy of Nilanjana Bose.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, described as the ‘most idiosyncratic protest song ever written.' Bob Dylan, the Nobel Laureate and another 60's icon, wrote, composed and sung it in 1962 when he was only 21. It’s been covered by many artistes including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and has never really stopped being sung ever since.

The form is modelled on the traditional ballad in the question and answer format, the themes being human suffering – pollution, warfare, isolation, angst. Sixty years after Dylan presented it at a performance at Carnegie Hall, the lyrics are striking in that how relevant they are today, how contemporary their feel and the depth of their appeal. Read more about the song here and here.

Unsurprisingly, I've gone with the human suffering angle. The #flash wrote itself. Sadly.


Ode to the Innocents



I can’t move, I can’t think, I’m freezing.

Anastasiya gathers her overcoat around her, pulls her woollen hat over her ears, wriggles her toes in her stiff boots. There’s no room to stamp her feet. Bodies press against her from all sides.

Why didn’t she run when she had the chance? Was it her love for her country? Her reluctance to be parted from her remaining relatives, especially her brother who returned from Poland to fight after her mother died in the bombing. She has no answers, not even to herself. Glory to Ukraine.

Lord only knows how long she’s sat upright, huddled, with nothing to lean against. Her back feels like it’s breaking. But she's grateful to have escaped here after the bombing of her apartment block. Yelling and screaming, along with hundreds of her neighbours, empty handed, she’d stumbled through broken earth, tripped on broken glass, only just avoided being torn apart by sharp steel girders lying half buried in her path. But she made it here.

To the shelter. Dark as pitch. It separates them all as surely as it binds them together. She’s been inside the shelter for hours, days, weeks, she’s lost track of everything but the gradual warming of the atmosphere from the press of too many bodies against the coolness of the cement floor, the weeping walls. Their collective breath in the chilly room forms a moving fog. The faint aroma of fragrance, the smell of beer breath, the bitterness of stale cigarettes is by now woven into their clothes, hair and skin.

The mournful sharp notes of a Jew’s harp played by an old man sets her teeth on edge even though it’s no more than a whisper. The vibrations resonate with the beat of her heart. Her grandfather played the Jew’s harp. Now her grandfather is dead. Her father played, but she has no idea if he’s dead or alive. The last she heard he was in an operation to take back a city in the south. Her brother was learning to play before war broke out. She wonders if he'll ever place it to his lips again. Glory to Ukraine.

She’s hyper conscious of every movement, each and every sound – the whimpering of small children and beloved dogs, the snores of the elderly exhausted by the sharp turn their lives have taken in a short time, the rustle of clothing as people try in vain to get more comfortable, the faint click of knitting needles as a middle-aged woman fashions a colourful  scarf to keep her son warm at the battlefront, the fragile stillness of the woman sitting nearby as she holds her breath, afraid to exhale.

Then … air raid sirens … muffled gasps as the missile sings its death song overhead.

The ground shudders. Is it only the weight of tanks and trucks on the roads escalating the ferocity of sound, drowning out the knitter’s coughing fit and the elderly gentleman’s incoherent cries. She clenches her teeth, holds her breath, counts, waits for the next blast and the weight of the debris and soil as it presses down, weighs down their flesh, levels the building as they all disappear further beneath the earth. She imagines being found days, weeks later, her stiff arm protruding from the rubble, her legs snapped like twigs, captured for the evening news. The two lovers who embrace at her feet, will their arms still be locked around each other? Their desperate lips clamped together for eternity? What about all the bundles of clothes and prized possessions brought to the shelter for safekeeping, will they become lonely artefacts in this communal tomb?

Shaking her head, she tries to dispel the gruesome images which isn’t helped by the laments from those awake who know what’s about to happen. Glory to Ukraine.

I can’t die. I won’t die. I have my whole life before me. God help me, I’m only sixteen.

There’s nowhere to run. This is it.

The atmosphere thickens. Her breathing intensifies. Opening her stinging eyes, she sees flecks of ash skittering around their heads. If she pokes out her tongue, she’ll taste death. She struggles to think of something else, to grasp hold of a thread of something normal. Not this deepest, darkest hell. This slow death. She wills the thudding of her blood and muscle to cease, to force her heart back to its normal size and her breathing to slow enough to stop overtaking her thoughts.

She smells the fear all around her in the dank perspiration of the terrified inmates of this prison which had offered the last vestige of hope in a city being pummelled into the ground. She senses it in the unease that has overtaken their shared space. Hears it in the desperate prayers as people call on God to deliver them. But God has turned his back on this hideous war where once again it’s man against man. When will they ever learn, she imagines Him asking?

Her legs are numb now and her back locked rigid, her muscles set in permanent contraction. Head between her knees, she shivers uncontrollably. The earth is so cold and pressed against her so tightly that the pain begins to spread through her like the fire that surely rages overhead, engulfing the shattered building where she shelters.

“Glory to Ukraine!” The cry is so loud she wonders if it will rally them all in their last moments.

It grows eerily quiet. Above their heads, the cement girders snap, falling, burying them. Her mouth fills with debris. With her last breath, she can see in her mind’s eye the latest video from her President.  

“We are here with you,” President Zelensky said. “Glory to Ukraine.”


 TAGLINE: All too often, hard rain leaves victims in its wake.




WORDS: 919

FCA

This was difficult to write. Maybe it lacks editing because I found it so painful to re-read. 

Please click on the names in my sidebar for more takes on the prompt, A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.

And if this prompt stumped you, start thinking about the June prompt, 


Thanks for coming by and supporting the writers at WEP.



33 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Tears and an aching heart here. This is truth for far too many. The hard rain is bucketing down.

Olga Godim said...

That is a powerful story. A scary story. It might even be a true story, which makes it even scarier. I understand your reluctance to re-read and edit. It was painful for me reading it the first time.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise - so true to what is going on ... so so believable - just horrifying and really frightening as we, as observers, can be drawn in through our thoughts. I do so feel for the Ukrainians - it is despicable in the 21st century ... very worrying. I couldn't write this - very difficult ... thank you - Hilary

Jemi Fraser said...

So well written and far too real. My heart breaks

N. R. Williams said...

This is so powerful. The suffering so needless, so wrong. Well written, Denise. The company that does my book covers is based in Ukraine. I contacted them to let them know I was praying for them. The world will continue to struggle with war, as long as there are greedy dictators willing to kill for their own lust for power.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And just horrific what is happening, just like that, in Ukraine now. Most of us can't even imagine, although you have done a fine job doing so.

Nilanjana Bose said...

It's raining too hard for too many people! Absolutely compelling writing, Denise. You've taken us right inside the war.

L.G. Keltner said...

This is so heartbreaking, even more so because these things are happening in real life right now. Powerful writing. It was difficult to read because of how real it is.

Carrie Ann said...

Wow...my heart is heavy and eyes are full of tears...

A Hundred Quills said...

Wow Denise. I don't know if it's right to say this, but you built a terrific scene with your words. Too many collateral damages of war. Takes ages to recover.
-Sonia

Kalpana said...

This is a fantastic piece of writing. I felt as if I was this 16 year old girl, observing everything around her, listending and being reminded of her male relatives.

Sally said...

Such a powerful piece of writing - tears in my eyes, lump in my throat.

Yolanda Renée said...

So many living and dying right now, and all because a bully holds office and commands the military. I just wish people would pay attention, but burying their heads in the sand (Tictok, Instagram, FB, etc.) is the only thing that holds their attention!
Beautifully done, thank you!

Yolanda Renée said...

Almost forgot, Thanks for posting mine. I couldn't decide if I should. I knew it was going to be a long hard week! But I made it back. So thanks!

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Renee. I saw you'd posted and I whipped around and linked those who hadn't, yours included. I'm glad I did.

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Sally. I tried to be in her shoes. Thankfully, I'm not.

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Kalpana. I'm glad you were with her.

Denise Covey said...

Thank you Sonia. It's right to say what you said. I worked hard to make it a hard-hitting scene.

Denise Covey said...

That's the response I like, Carrie Ann.

Denise Covey said...

It was difficult to write because I felt that girl really existed.

Denise Covey said...

I'm glad Nila. Not a good place to be though.

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Alex. I've tried.

Denise Covey said...

Always with the greedy dictators, Nancy. I'd say Putin is evil. Imagine if someone was bombing his children!

Denise Covey said...

Thanks Jemi.

Denise Covey said...

Very sadly, Sue, it is.

Denise Covey said...

I'm pretty sure it's fairly true, Olga. I based it on true experiences with a lot of imagination.

Denise Covey said...

Yes Hilary, as many have asked, how can we watch a country being pummelled by a bully in 2022?

Ornery Owl of Naughty Netherworld Press and Readers Roost (Not Charlotte) said...

Deeply emotional and realistic. I would have trouble leaving my home, not only because of my physical limitations. I believe I would stay regardless of the outcome. I'm far from young and I'm in the only place that's ever felt like home to me.

Denise Covey said...

This war must be hell on the elderly and disabled. A bit hard to flee. The first person interviews of those who have endured these conditions are heartbreaking.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Well written and heart rending. It feels wrong and bizarre to be sitting here going on about normal life when those in the Ukraine can't.

Deniz Bevan said...

Finally coming around to the posts I missed when blogger was acting up. Yours is really touching. It's so hard to think of all the individual lives and stories being affected. The image of the woman knitting for her son on the battlefield...

Roland Clarke said...

Apologies for this late comment of praise for a powerful, heart-wrenching, and real depiction of the personal horror too many innocents are going through in Ukraine. Too many have already died, too many in ghastly circumstances - Mariupol, Bucha, and now villages in the Donbas. I fear too many will die or suffer before sanity prevails.
Your evocative words make my Ukraine story feel weak. Maybe I can build more emotional impact in my June 'letters'.

wiki said...

this was so difficult to write a story. this article is very nice just loved to read this