Nana Voitenko 

The author: Nadiya Kasyanchuk



gather in constellations

transmit messages

like telephone poles

neurons are hurt

no one ever understands them

and suddenly you show up

you complied cells like baby cubes

dendrites to dendrite –

lacelike dominoes

it wasn’t easy –

life threw hurdles in your path

you made it anyway

troublesome nineties

you were standing restlessly under the windows – 

“woman again?” – they shouted spitefully to you

but in the end, you managed to found the one you needed

and your flight began

everything was spinning in Kyiv – 

(at an institute that I, by the way, dream of)

there you earned a Ph.D. in biosciences

And in the year 2000 - as I was only learning how to walk the earth

you stood steadily in the best labs of the Earth

and then, as in the land of dreams

you embraced the best positions

and embraced the people with your knowledge and kindness

I could write a long story about your merits

and capture metaphors

without mercy

but about you – you must agree – 

blood of Athena and Kronos

your scientific strata are the better teller

so, even though it was clumsy - but somehow, I still managed

to make a poem from the theses, articles, and letters:

you explore calcium –

Hermes of the cell space

the head of thoughts from birth and forever

and show that one shouldn’t be afraid of pain –

but dress in the armor of science –

fight and walk:

that’s how we touch something painfully known

(I don’t know what about the heartache, by the way)

Calcium is directed right to the AMPA receptors

of our cell gates

and as in war so cruelly and masterly

they begin

the first bloody battle

Stroke after stroke; battle after battle;

à la guerre comme à la guerre

didn’t you expect? siege via NMDA channels

calcium finally overcame and gave a bellicose signal

the foundation is crushed (a protein anchor)

the dead was replaced with a new ridiculous channel

ions are pouring out like rain in July through it

calcium in the cell - the neuron feels fireworks of pain

so what about man, as this war goes on every day –

and every day to lose this bloody hateful fight

and you suddenly appeared

a heroine from movies –

but a micropipette instead of a sword

and managed to strengthen that receptor wall

as if there was no battle in the cell

yes, I know here they were waiting for opinions in prose

but somehow, I’ve always liked the poems better

so maybe not for the contest – and maybe as a letter to you

this poem will be sent, not a too specific essay

and maybe when you meet me working

you’ll surely recognize me: a little curly-haired girl

who has never been able to speak in prose

and believes in science – that it’s the only one who makes the world spin

you’re studying pain –

and your pain doesn’t hurt

it makes us proud –

that our girls produce such thoughts

you’re studying pain –

I’m proud and indeed admire you

and want to be like you in the future

you balm the pain and do it for a reason

so, let’s see in a year or two

as they between the Nobel Peace Prize seniors

declare so proudly –


The illustrator: Anna Sarvira