The Judgment Tale

By Valzhyna Mort Valzhyna Mort
Over the growing shadows fell the dead weight of  light.

With a long bark mules metered the distance and turned back.
Dust rose like columns of unpaid debt.
Spit dried before it could reach the ground.

Then the thin-barked orange trees disowned their thick-skinned fruit.
Then mosquitoes spat out bad blood into the gutters and were gone.

Fish was opened like a two-page book,
its skeleton, caught aflame like an asp,
inscribed with fire along the bone lines,
then slapped on a stone face of a plate
next to a Coca-Cola bottle as cold as hell.

In the market fruit prices jumped up so high — 
the seller women turned into hawks.

With a gibbous peacock brushing by their feet,
in the woods where each leaf  hides a face,
                          and each trunk a spine,
                                                 and each tree a crime,
                                                               where owls and angels,

a man and three women were contesting an apple.

The winner’s body itself was an apple with skin chewed off.
Inside her breasts milk circled like a growling animal
locked behind two heavy nipples.

It was both day and night.
Her moon-white hand on the sun-gold fruit.
In her hair more stones than in a graveyard.


    I followed the woman as she ate
    hoping if not for a bite
    then at least
    a spit in my direction.
    But she left nothing of that apple.
    Not even the memory of eating it


Source: Poetry (April 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2014
 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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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