And the Wolves in the Wolf Factory Paused* – by Jon Yungkans

1  Ukraine
An old woman in a black
jacket gave a handful of
sunflower seeds to each man
dressed like a hillside in green-
and-khaki camouflage. Men
invading her country. She blessed
them with a hope those seeds would
sprout and broaden in the sun,
yellow smiles over their graves.

2  Old West
Widow served Jesse James and
his gang bird-bites of food, half-
cups of coffee. Debt collector
was riding in to foreclose. James
gave her cash to pay. Said make
sure to get a receipt. They
rode away. Waited. Lightened
the collector’s saddle bag once
she had paid him and he left.

3  Prague, Czech Republic
In Wenceslas Square, the way
to hell is paved with Jewish
headstones. Names, dates face ground in
Humpty-Dumpty smithereens.
Blue granite cut into cubes
where shoppers and tourists walk,
stop at cafés and marvel
at all the architecture.
The Metro runs beneath it.

4  Polish Border
Police beat Afghans who tried
to cross from imminent death.
Now police hand doughnuts
to fleeing Ukrainians,
along with fruit, sandwiches.
Afghans froze in the forests
that straddle the border, no-
man’s land. Ukrainians get
a ride to the rail station.

5  Whittier, California
Amid a crowd of sparrows
a pin-tailed whydah feeds, its
tail twin black ribbons three times
longer than its black and white
body—beautiful migrant
and parasite. Its mate’s eggs
lie in other birds’ nests. How
to think of such a bird? In
search of whose home? Invader?

*[1] Line from the poem “Laughing Gravy” by John Ashbery, in his collection Wakefulness.

Jon YungkansJonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Gyroscope Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Synkroniciti and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.