Mocking Bird Hotel

By Valzhyna Mort Valzhyna Mort
A woman’s hallelujah! washes the foot of Mocking Bird
Hill, her face eclipsed by her black mouth,
her eyes rolled up like workman’s sleeves.
Stirred up, a fly speaks in the tongue of the hotel
doorbell, where, on the sun-ridden straw terrace
my salvation means less than praise
to a dumb child. Damned, blinded by ice cubes,
the fly surrenders its life into the waiter’s clean hands.

Behind the kitchen of the Mocking Bird Hotel
a rooster repeats hallelujah! until it loses its head.
A man harvests the Family Tree before his forefathers’
features have a chance to ripen on their faces. Parakeets
watch him from the bare nerves of the garden. He harvests
before the worms that eat his father turn into demons.

Do not eat the fruit from your Family Tree. You have
eyes not to see them, hands not to pick them, teeth
not to bite them, tongue not to taste them even in speech.
The waiter slashes the table with our bill. We descend
Mocking Bird Hill without raising dust. Dogs,
their fur hanging like wet feathers off their backs,
piss yellow smoke without lifting a leg. Gulls
smash their heads between their wings.
Light lays the eggs of shadows under the shrubs.
Produce shacks stand empty like football gates.
What appeared blue from afar, turns green.
                 I hold it all in, even my own urine.
But the mother of vowels slumps from my throat
like the queen of a havocked beehive.

Higher than hallelujah! rising like smoke over the hill,
I scream at the top of that green lung,
                                                                    why, in the Mocking Bird
Hell, do you value your blood over your sweat,
that bitterness over this salt, that wound over this
crystal? But often, to shed light on the darkness, light
isn’t enough. Often what I need is even a darker
darkness. Like in those hours before the sun incriminates this
hotel, his two nostrils that illuminate our benighted bodies.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2011
 Valzhyna  Mort


Born in Minsk, Belarus (part of the former Soviet Union), in 1981, Valzhyna Mort has been praised as “[a] risen star of the international poetry world” by the Irish Times. When she moved to the United States in 2005, she had already published her first book, I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes, and was known across the world as an electrifying reader of her poems. Her debut collection in America, Factory of Tears, has received . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.