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.
Copyright © 2018 by Valzhyna Mort. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“Velimir Khlebnikov wrote somewhere that the State speaks to its people through its statues. Minsk is full of statues: gigantic statues to national poets along with the granite busts of communist officials. Maxim Bakhdanovich was a Belarusian modernist poet who died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five, a couple of years after his first book was published. He was lucky to die so peacefully. In exactly twenty years most Belarusian intellectuals were tortured and murdered by the communist officials. In one night in 1937, Bolsheviks shot twenty-two young Belarusian writers. The statue of Bakhdanovich in Minsk is 4.6 meters high and is made out of granite.”
Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort is the author of Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), which was cotranslated into English by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and poet Franz Wright.
Date Published: 2018-05-07
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/guest