Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort’s third book of poetry, Music for the Dead and Resurrected, came out in 2020 from FSG. Her other books of poetry are Factory of Tears and Collected Body. Born in Minsk, Belarus, she teaches at Cornell University and writes in English and Belarusian.

Valzhyna Mort

Photo: Tanya Kapitonova


Poetry Centre Stage »

Reading: Colette Bryce, Valzhyna Mort

Sun 14 March | 19:30 - 20:30 | FREE | StAnza Online


Ars Poetica

Not books, but
a street opened my mouth like a doctor’s spatula.
One by one, streets introduced themselves
with the names of national
In the State Archives, covers
hardened like scabs
over the ledgers.

Inside a tiny apartment
I built myself
                     into a separate room,
peopled it
                           with the Calibans
of plans for the future.

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses,
         from the zoo to the circus, what future;
what is your alibi for these ledgers, these streets, this apartment, this future?

In the purse which held—
          through seven wars—
                     the birth certificates
of the dead, my grandmother
hid—from me—
chocolates. The purse opened like a screaming mouth.
Its two shiny buckles watched me
through doors, through walls, through jazz.

Who has taught you to be a frightening face, purse?
I kiss your buckles, I swear myself your subject.

August. Apples. I have nobody.
August. For me, a ripe apple is a little brother.

For me, a four-legged table is a pet.

In the temple of Supermarket
I stand
like a candle

in the line to the priestesses who preserve
the knowledge of sausage prices, the virginity
of milk cartons. My future, small
change after buying necessities.

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses,
streets introduced themselves with the names
of national murderers. I build myself
into a separate room, where memory—
the illegal migrant in time—cleans up
after imagination.

In a room where memory strips the beds—
linens that hardened like scabs
on the mattresses—I kiss

little apples—my brothers—I kiss the buckles
that watch us through walls, through years, through jazz;
chocolates from a purse that held—through seven wars—
birth certificates of the dead!

Hold me, brother-apple.

Valzhyna Mort

Excerpted from MUSIC FOR THE DEAD AND RESURRECTED: Poems by Valzhyna Mort. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2020 by Valzhyna Mort. All rights reserved.