Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Mocking Bird Hotel" by Valzhyna Mort

Mocking Bird Hotel

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 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 an even darker
darkness. Like in those hours before the sun incriminates this
hotel, his two nostrils that illuminate our benighted bodies.

Source of the text – Valzhyna Mort, Collected Body.  Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2011, p. 4-5.

TJB: Poetry as mimicry. On an American hill, the Belarusian poet flings rhetoric, images, St. Paul, & deigns to pluck verse from her family tree.

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