Here, where I’m dying, in a white 
                                                 house by a blue harbor.
                                                        —Maxim Bakhdanovich

 
Come in, Maxim!... This is Minsk
choked under a pillow of clouds.
 
There’s you: a statue in a heavy coat.
Here all monuments wear coats
 
not wool, but linden bark coats
with bee fur collars.
 
In their pockets monuments keep belts.
And under collars monuments have necks.
 
In winter shadows insulate the walls.
Windows and cracks are plucked with shadows.
In museums on display are coats
 
and nooses. And water is pickle-juice.
 
Come in, Maxim, apartment blocks
are wrapped in ammunition staircases,
and window-medals sparkle through the night.
 
Every building here is a kind of bust,
an elevator ascends like vomit.
 
Of furniture there is a stump.
Come in, Maxim,
it’s nothing like lie dying by a harbor.
 
Take a sit on a stump.
Don’t cast a shadow.
Keep the coat on.

More by Valzhyna Mort

Belarusian I

even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing
we couldn't tell which of us was a girl or a boy
we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread
and our future
a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon
was performing there
at the highest pitch
bitch

we grew up in a country where
first your door is stroked with chalk
then at dark a chariot arrives
and no one sees you anymore
but riding in those cars were neither
armed men nor
a wanderer with a scythe
this is how love loved to visit us
and snatch us veiled

completely free only in public toilets
where for a little change nobody cared what we were doing
we fought the summer heat the winter snow
when we discovered we ourselves were the language
and our tongues were removed we started talking with our eyes
when our eyes were poked out we talked with our hands
when our hands were cut off we conversed with our toes
when we were shot in the legs we nodded our heads for yes
and shook our heads for no and when they ate our heads alive
we crawled back into the bellies of our sleeping mothers
as if into bomb shelters
to be born again

and there on the horizon the gymnast of our future
was leaping through the fiery hoop
of the sun

crossword

a woman moves through dog rose and juniper bushes,
a pussy clean and folded between her legs, 
breasts like the tips of her festive shoes
shine silently in her heavy armoire.

one black bird, one cow, one horse. 
the sea beats against the wall of the waterless.
she walks to a phone booth that waits
a fair distance from all three villages.

it's a game she could have heard on the radio:
a question, a number, an answer, a prize.
her pussy reaches up and turns on the light in her womb.

from the rain, she says into the receiver, 
we compiled white tables and chairs under a shed
into a crossword puzzle
and sat ourselves in the grid.

the receiver is silent. the bird flounces
like a burglar caught red-handed.
her voice stumbles over her glands.
the body to be written in the last block—
i can suck his name out of any letter.

all three villages cover their faces with wind.

Singer

A yoke of honey in a glass of cooling milk.
Bats playful like butterflies on power lines.
In all your stories blood hangs like braids

of drying onions. Our village is so small,
it doesn’t have its own graveyard. Our souls,
are sapped in sour water of the bogs. 

Men die in wars, their bodies their graves. 
And women burn in fire. When midsummer
brings thunderstorms, we cannot sleep

because our house is a wooden sieve,
and crescent lightning cut off our hair. 
The bogs ablaze, we sit all night in fear. 

I always thought that your old trophy Singer 
would hurry us away on its arched back. 
I thought we’d hold on to its mane of threads 

from loosened spools along Arabic spine, 
same threads that were sown into my skirts, 
my underthings, first bras. What smell

came from those threads you had so long, 
sown in, pulled out, sown back into the clothes
that held together men who’d fall apart 

undressed. Same threads between my legs! 
I lash them, and the Singer gallops!  

And sky hangs only the lightning’s thread. 
Like in that poem: on Berlin’s Jaegerstrasse
Arian whores are wearing shirts ripped off
sliced chests of our girls. My Singer-Horsey,

why everything has to be like that poem? 

Related Poems

Book of Statues

Because I am a boy, the untouchability of beauty
is my subject already, the book of statues
open in my lap, the middle of October, leaves
foiling the wet ground
in soft copper. “A statue
must be beautiful
from all sides,” Cellini wrote in 1558.
When I close the book,
the bodies touch. In the west,
they are tying a boy to a fence and leaving him to die,
his face unrecognizable behind a mask
of blood. His body, icon
of loss, growing meaningful
against his will.