New Year in Vishnyowka

                            (a lullaby)

Snow glints and softens
a pig's slaughter.

Mama refuses another 
drink, mama 
agrees to another drink.

On the wall—a carpet with peonies,
their purple mouths 
                     suck me into sleep.
        I've been bedded. 
from across the wall, 
                     my lullabies. 
Mama says no-no-no 
to more drink.

My bed smells of valenky. 
Without taking its eyes off me
a cat 
licks its grey paw as if sharpening a knife.
Mama yells yes to another drink.

Mama's breasts are too big to fit into packed morning buses.
There's uncertainty 
                                 I would grow into a real person.
But on a certain day 
in Vishnyowka, 
a pig

is slaughtered, mama whispers yes 
yes yes yes 
to more drink,
I'm vanishing into the peonies’ throats,
peonies smell of valenky, 
                                 of pig’s blood
on the snow.


Clock’s hands leave a strange ski track.


Copyright © 2020 by Valzhyna Mort. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“In Belarus, we never sip vodka. Vodka is gulped, always following a toast—a magic spell of adulthood. This poem occurs in a small village of Vishnyowka (this is its literary debut) on New Year's Eve, a portal of timelessness where the past and the future meet. As what could have been a pagan sacrifice, a pig has been slaughtered by a joyful bunch of accountants and long-distance drivers. A city child is half-asleep in a strange village house; the cat, the rug on the wall, the snow with blood and ski tracks on it, the voices from the table, everything has taken on mythical, magical proportions.”
Valzhyna Mort