Yulya Tsimafeyeva trans. Valzhyna Mort: two poems


I fear the children of Zhlobin,
with the factory’s smoggy tits.

Zhlobin wrapped
their hard bodies
into imitation fur,
with Chinese glue
Zhlobin glued onto the fur
their white eyes.
Under the plastic eyes
their metal eyelashes are locked,
their wide mouths sealed
like oil tanks
freight trains
human freight trains
that without sleep
through the railway junction
of my navel.

The children of Zhlobin mature
between the rails,
they wish for warmth
in their artificial
rabbit fur, bear fur,
cat fur, elephant fur,
pink and blue fur.

          The sun doesn’t know
where Zhlobin lies.
In the metal fog
Zhlobin takes its children to kindergarden.
In the metal twilight
it takes its children back
into its public housing
calling them by their number and curse.

Your children know how to count, but know not how to read.
Your children know how to drink, but know not how to eat.

Do you remember me, the city of Zhlobin?
The artificial fur of my placenta
still hangs on the bridge
of the railway station.
My rabbit eyes are still scattered
under feet
on the central market,
they see:

the shiny metal of your children
didn’t fade,
the full tits of the factory
wring into the clouds
their black milk.

Out of me

Poet’s Body

A poet’s body belongs to his motherland.
Motherland speaks through the poet’s mouth.
Poet’s eyes see how unfairly it suffers.
Poet’s ears hear the agony of the innocent.
Poet’s hair stands on end,
poet’s legs burst into oaks,
poet’s hands fold into fists.

Undeniably, a poet’s body belongs to his motherland.
Motherland! Can you speak for yourself without poet’s help?

And would you like my body, the body of a poetess?
My blood is as hot,
I got hands, legs,
seeing eyes, hearing ears,
my mouth is no smaller than any poet’s.

You don’t wish to respond, motherland. You turn away.
Perhaps we are too much alike.
You’d rather be weak, don’t you,
You want the poet to speak for you,
to pity you,
to wipe your tears,
to sing praises
to your suffering
and your famous copying mechanisms?

Even now you are not listening.
Tsk-tsk: you are whining to your poet.

No, motherland, you don’t need a body
of a poetess.


Yulya Tsimafeyeva is a Belarusian poet, translator, and one of the founders and editors of a Belarusian literary magazine PrajdziSvet. She is the author of two poetry collections, The Book of Mistakes (2014), which was short-listed for the Debut Literary Prize and Circus (2016), short-listed for Natallia Arsiennieva poetry prize. In 2018 in Lublin, Poland, her selected poems were published in a seperate volume in Polish translation.

Valzhyna Mort is the author of Factory of Tears and Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press). She is a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, Amy Clampitt fellowship, and a number of European fellowships. Born in Minsk, Belarus, she teaches at Cornell University.

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