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Introduction by Claire Nam

"Bloomworld" by Mykyta Ryzhykh



Oftentimes, media and mass attention is loudest at the crux of the violence of war. We are shocked by the news reports of bellowing bombs and the broad, gashing slashes of red. We are devastated by media images of crumbling concrete buildings and ruins of schools. We look out our windows and shudder at the prospects of seeing and breathing the same sweeping swaths of gray and smoke. We anger, mourn, and pray. Then, we turn off the TV. 

Beyond the mere oceans and stretches of land that distance us from the war, what often fails to be seen is the silent aftermath of the battle. In “Bloomworld,” Ryzhykh explores the quiet moments of the gray underbelly of war: A stray dog circles the windows of its broken house, an old lady worries over her husband’s allergies, and hyacinths fall. Time collapses, winter and summer melt one another, the dog returns and flees as a neighbor extends a hand. Sometimes, wounds reopen and bleed quietly from the inside.

As the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues in both roaring losses of lives and hushed violence, Ryzhykh’s piece blooms and snarls. Commanding and unapologetic, the author searches between lived realities of ruins and oral histories of death across nations to search for the mythical, the “dream” of being a “free bird,” “an animal or person,” or even—“the wind itself.” Traveling to Apollo, the Sun God Ra, Stribog, and the Death Fugue, this narrative serves as a reminder that no matter how removed we may be from the battlefield, the ghost of war haunts and continues to solidify itself across historical, political, and emotional borders of the human experience. That such experiences are unforgettable. 


Art by Alex Riccobon


Flowers fall from the tree. Blooms fall from the cherry tree. Tender hyacinths meet the bloomfall. Like eyes, cartilage chafers buzz about. These soundless eyelets speak silently, in circles, like bees. And so the panic begins. And so a dog approaches you, a large dog named a name now lost, and asks for food in its thoughts. Then your eyes calm down and start looking at this clean white dog wearing a collar around its neck. A dog this big should be put on a leash, you think, and silence this blabbering thought, lock it up in the cage of your brain.

“A dog must live without a cage. I mean, a doghouse. But where should it live then if its owners left, unlikely to return, and it doesn’t have a doghouse?” — says either to you, or the dog,  or herself an old woman who walked up from the side unnoticed.

“Do you know anything about it?” you ask the woman, keeping your pain-eyes on the dog.

She mulls it over. “It was often walked in our neighborhood. I think. Can’t be sure — we have a lot of dog-owners living there. But there must be a reason for it to end up here, near this house.”

Eyes dart to the building automatically — almost no windows left, a few covered up with planks. Almost no windows left, the sun and the wind are dancing to the Death Fugue (Celan’s?), making a draft, creeping into apartments and playing with tattered curtains. A man is like a corkscrew to other men. A minute is a lock to other minutes. Wave after wave and the windows are no more. Explosion after explosion and strength is no more. 

“How could the owners abandon such a beautiful dog?” asks the lady, feeding bread to the beast. The dog greedily eats.

“Abandoned the dog or the world?”  you answer mutely, like you truly understand that in its nature a person is a question without an answer. 

“So it really is hungry and really is abandoned,” worries the old lady, “but I still can’t take it in, my husband is allergic and all that…”

The next morning you come to the windowless house again. To the house with broken windows. And you are greeted by the same dog once again. “Did it stay here the whole night?” you think, and then thinking becomes impossible — your head hurts, and the dog inside your head begins to howl, and the wind begins to hum like a shaman, immediately thumping and muttering. But the building is still windowless. The building still has its windows broken. The shaman falls asleep inside your head, unable to change reality. 

“People think that animals and children are their property. They repeat to them the same words of praise or repairmand. And what are children and dogs supposed to do now, when adults are disappearing somewhere? When adults are driving, flying, swimming, diving somewhere, somewhere to parts of the world completely unknown to us. Got a smoke?”

“No,” you say to the stranger and leave. And when you reach the intersection you turn around to get the dog. The dog refuses to go with you and flees somewhere around the corner. You go home.

Sun-god, like the golden Ra, shines in the sky. The wind jumps around like dad Stribog, holding everything tangible close, bending trees to the ground. Winter and summer meet at the next intersection. Spring and summer walk, promenading, playing games with people, playing people games. The god of animals is drowning in its own absence, somewhere in a puddle of tears on its mud cheek of misery. Everyone dreams of becoming strong, especially now. Everyone dreams of becoming a god, even for an animal or a person. Everyone dreams of being a free bird. Or the wind itself. 

Dogs. People. Hyacinths. Killed by a discus of Apollo, the lover, mindcuttingly killed by the zephyr breath of Boreas, the hatred. Hyacinth children. They bloom, and they bloom, returning to life yearly after a (not)long, winterish, february death. They bloom, and they bloom…

Translators: Julia Murashova

Content Editors: Claire Nam

Blog Writer/Editor: Laith Weinberger


Interview with Mykyta Ryzhykh

  1. I would love to know more about you individually as a writer. How long have you been writing for? What does writing do for you personally? Why do you write?  I have been writing since I was a teenager and, to be honest, I don’t know why and I don’t fully understand how it happened that I began to publish relatively en masse (in my understanding). Maybe: some people like to bake bread, others like to come up with designs, but I love to write, it just happened that way. In some sense, it's Covid and war "gave" me an additional impetus to search for new ways in creative writing and (self)publishing outside of Ukraine.

  2. What was the inspiration behind “Bloomworld” and what was the writing process like? How has writing—and particularly writing this piece—helped you navigate the war experience?  This text was written fairly quickly. I just thought one day, because of the war, not only people but also animals suffer. This prompted me to write a text not about military events, but about “military life,” which is less often spoken about. Of course, personal experience influenced the plot as a whole, but not much.

  3. You refer to many cultural allusions from many different countries in the piece, such as the German Death Fugue, Slavic Stribog god, and the Egyptian Ra God—not just Ukrainian ones. This was a really  unique and compelling choice! What was the inspiration and intention behind this?  You forgot to mention that the name of the hyacinth flower is associated with Greek mythology. I love allusions to world culture. In the 21st century it is difficult to come up with something new: everything has already been invented before by thousands of other thinkers. Our past is part of our present.

  4. As a reader, the hyacinths seemed to carry a large emotional weight throughout the piece. Is there any kind of special emotional or cultural significance behind this flower?  Flowers can die and be reborn, as happened with the mythical Hyacinth. This reminds us of the cyclical nature of life and time. Time for life, for death, for rebirth after wars and winters.

  5. Is there any kind of message you hope to tell your readers, or anything you hope they take away from this piece? Someone once said: in real art, the reader or viewer always notices something more than what the creator art-created. This is all.


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