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Sylt II

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The wind that makes your hair grow faster
opens a child’s mouth full of strawberry and sand.
Slow and sure
on the scales of the ocean
the child’s head outweighs the sun.

Inside of the wind—
                                       a blister of a church,
its walls thicker than the space from wall to wall
where the wind shifts shade and light
like two rival chess pieces
or two unmatched pieces of furniture.
Inside of the church—such a stillness
that when a feather floats down in a fist of dust
it becomes a rock by the time it hits the ground.

Organ pipes glint like a cold radiator,
contained in a case of a carved tree, its branches
tied up with a snake.
Organ pedals, golden and plump, are the tree’s only fruit.

It is all about the release of weight:
the player crushes the pedals like grapes underneath his feet.
My body, like an inaccurate cashier, adds your weight to itself.
Your name, called into the wind,
slows the wind down.

When a body is ripe, it falls and rots from the softest spot.

Only when a child slips and drops off a tree,
the tree suddenly learns that it is barren.


Source: Poetry (July/August 2011)

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

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Sylt II

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  • 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 acclaim: the New Yorker writes, “Mort strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language.” She composes her poems in Belarusian as attempts are being made to revitalize the traditional language, which lends her work both conventional and groundbreaking tones. Mort reads in both Belarusian and English, and so the poem “New York” provides an ideal context...

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