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Category archive for: Valzhyna Mort

Sylt II

The wind that makes your hair grow faster

opens a child’s mouth full of strawberry and sand.

Slow and sure

on the scales of the ocean

the child’s head outweighs the sun.

Inside the wind –

a blister of a church,

its walls thicker than the room from wall to wall

where the wind shifts shade and light

as if they were two rival chess pieces

or two unmatched pieces of furniture.

Inside the church – such a stillness;

a feather which floats clenched in a fist of dust

becomes a rock by the time it hits the ground.

Organ pipes glint like a cold radiator

caged in a case carved as a tree, its branches

tied up with a snake.

Organ pedals, golden and plump, are the tree’s only fruit.

It is all about the release of weight.

The player crushes the pedals like grapes underneath his feet.

My body, like an inaccurate cashier, adds your weight to itself.

Your name, called into the wind,

slows the wind down.

When a body is ripe, it falls and rots from the softest spot.

Only when a child slips and drops off a tree,

the tree suddenly learns that it is barren.

from Collected BodyFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Valzhyna Mort
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

On a Steamer

at night from far away

the city looks like

a huge overturned christmas tree

decorated for a holiday

then thrown away

now

it’s lying

with its branches scattered

and its lamps

still glittering

in the dark

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Music of Locusts

what i wouldn’t give

to be a small freckle on the wind’s nose

to ride in a convertible

beside a middle-aged man

a teenager will do

it’s as if everything that has happened

is nothing but Security which you have to pass through

in order to get into summer

god tossed a heart like a coin

inside me

as if i were a pond

he made a wish

and lingered in the air

and everything belongs to me but hope

the mountains are kneeling like runners at the starting line

their green t-shirts billowing in the wind

then they are gigantic tortoises

he will offer to leave me

the color of his skin is

like the color of the sun at dusk

and the road is parting in front of the wheels

like an army of locusts as it rushes ahead of us

like god’s stray eyelashes

the stars are falling — more light! more!

god has no time to make a wish

all he can do is cry out faster! faster!

it’s impossible to fall asleep next to this man

at night all that’s left of my body

is the music of locusts

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 2

for A.B.

it’s so hard to believe

that once we were even younger

than now

that our skin was so thin

that veins blued through it

like lines in school notebooks

that the world was a homeless dog

that played with us after class

and we were thinking of taking it home

but somebody else took it first

gave it a name

and trained it stranger

against us

and this is why we wake up late at night

and light up the candles of our tv sets

and in their warm flame we recognize

faces and cities

and courageous in the morning

we dethrone omelets from frying pans…

but our dog grew up on another’s leash

our mothers suddenly stopped sleeping with men

and looking at them today

it’s so easy to believe in the immaculate conception

and now imagine:

somewhere there are towns

with white stone houses

scattered along the ocean shore

like the eggs of gigantic water birds

and every house carries a legend of a captain

and every legend starts with

“young and handsome…”

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

A Poem about White Apples

white apples, first apples of summer,

with skin as delicate as a baby’s,

crispy like white winter snow.

your smell won’t let me sleep,

this is how dead men

haunt their murderers’ dreams.

white apples,

this is how every july the earth

gets heavier under your weight.

and here only garbage smells like garbage…

and here only tears taste like salt…

we were picking them

like shells in green ocean gardens,

having just turned away from mothers’ breasts

we were learning

to get to the core of everything with our teeth.

so why are our teeth like cotton wool now…

white apples,

in black waters, the fishermen,

nursed by you, are drowning.

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Hospital

when someone spends a lot of time running

and bashing his head

against a cement wall

the cement grows warm

and he curls up with it

against his cheek

like a starfish a medusa

and senses

how the body uses memory

to bind it to the earth

and he waits there for the moment

when his eyes turn

into wobbling tops

and the whole colorful universe

appears like the deep

hole in the sink

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Photograph

Sochi. 1982.

They stand

hand in hand

with the confidence of an excellent grade

on a report card.

Out of the corner of their eyes

they might see the beach,

a boy hiding behind a slice of watermelon –

his ancient red fortress.

Preoccupied, he peers through the pit holes

waiting for his enemy to approach.

His enormous mother reads a list of passengers from the crashed airplane,

how their blood went up

like a boiling thermometer

and horror no longer had a signifier.

Under her sweaty palms, the print blurs,

turning into black body bags

arranged on the page.

Honeymoon.

Hand in hand

they stand in Sochi in 1982.

She thinks to herself:

my Lifeline is not on the palm of my hand,

but bent slightly in the knee,

it’s my leg lifted over my man’s body.

How natural it is for a Lifeline

to start where a leg does.

Between the shots, in her mind’s eye

she considers the line’s length,

and smiles into the camera with relief –

for her legs are long.

On the beach

the watermelon fortress

stands sweet,

undefeated,

blood invisible on its red bricks.

from Collected BodyFind it in the library

Copyright © 2011 Valzhyna Mort
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Factory of Tears

And once again according to the annual report

the highest productivity results were achieved

by the Factory of Tears.

While the Department of Transportation was breaking heels

while the Department of Heart Affairs

was beating hysterically

the Factory of Tears was working night shifts

setting new records

even on holidays.

While the Food Refinery Station

was trying to digest another catastrophe

the Factory of Tears adopted a new economically advantageous

technology of recycling the wastes of the past —

memories mostly.

The pictures of the employees of the year

were placed on the Wall of Tears.

I’m a recipient of workers’ comp from the heroic Factory of Tears.

I have calluses on my eyes.

I have compound fractures on my cheeks.

I receive my wages with the product I manufacture.

And I’m happy with what I have.

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Grandmother

my grandmother

doesn’t know pain

she believes that

famine is nutrition

poverty is wealth

thirst is water

her body like a grapevine winding around a walking stick

her hair bees’ wings

she swallows the sun-speckles of pills

and calls the internet the telephone to america

her heart has turned into a rose the only thing you can do is smell it

pressing yourself to her chest

there’s nothing else you can do with it

only a rose

her arms like stork’s legs

red sticks

and i am on my knees

howling like a wolf

at the white moon of your skull

grandmother

i’m telling you it’s not pain

just the embrace of a very strong god

one with an unshaven cheek that scratches when he kisses you

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 1

in memory of a book

books die

out of dark bedrooms

where the only road

paved by a yellow lamp

led to their pages

they are stuffed in every corner of a house

thus turning it into a huge book cemetery

those whose names do not ring any bell

are taken to the attic

where they lay — twenty books in one box —

a mass grave

books become windows

in empty apartments

nobody’s heart beats above them

no one shares with them a dinner

or drops them into a bathtub

nobody watches them

lose their pages

like hair

like memory

books age alone

and the most sensitive book

stays forever

in a cold bed

covering its head with a pillow

suppressing the scream of its black letters

old books

neglected graves

Millbrook, April 2006

from Factory of TearsFind it in the library

Copyright © 2008 Valzhyna Mort (Trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.