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“Soviet soldiers brought Singers en mass from Germany during World War II. These sewing machines were so popular as trophies that today most Eastern Europeans, including myself, still hold on to the conviction that Singer is a German company. My mother’s uncle got our family’s Singer from emptied German quarters in Minsk at the end of the war.”
—Valzhyna Mort


Valzhyna Mort

A yoke of honey in a glass of cooling milk.
Bats playful like butterflies on power lines.
In all your stories blood hangs like braids

of drying onions. Our village is so small,
it doesn’t have its own graveyard. Our souls,
are sapped in sour water of the bogs. 

Men die in wars, their bodies their graves. 
And women burn in fire. When midsummer
brings thunderstorms, we cannot sleep

because our house is a wooden sieve,
and crescent lightning cut off our hair. 
The bogs ablaze, we sit all night in fear. 

I always thought that your old trophy Singer 
would hurry us away on its arched back. 
I thought we’d hold on to its mane of threads 

from loosened spools along Arabic spine, 
same threads that were sown into my skirts, 
my underthings, first bras. What smell

came from those threads you had so long, 
sown in, pulled out, sown back into the clothes
that held together men who’d fall apart 

undressed. Same threads between my legs! 
I lash them, and the Singer gallops!  

And sky hangs only the lightning’s thread. 
Like in that poem: on Berlin’s Jaegerstrasse
Arian whores are wearing shirts ripped off
sliced chests of our girls. My Singer-Horsey,

why everything has to be like that poem? 

Copyright © 2014 by Valzhyna Mort. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 16, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Valzhyna Mort

by this poet

even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing
we couldn't tell which of us was a girl or a boy
we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread
and our future
a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon
was performing
a woman moves through dog rose and juniper bushes,
a pussy clean and folded between her legs, 
breasts like the tips of her festive shoes
shine silently in her heavy armoire.

one black bird, one cow, one horse. 
the sea beats against the wall of the waterless.
she walks to a phone booth that waits
a fair