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Not books, but

a street opened my mouth like a doctor’s spatula.

One by one, streets introduced themselves

with the names of national

murderers.

In the State Archives, covers

hardened like scabs

over the ledgers.

*

Inside a tiny apartment

I built myself

into a separate room.

*

Inside a tiny apartment

I built myself

into a separate room,

peopled it

with the Calibans

of plans for the future.

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses,

from the zoo to the circus,

what future;

what is your alibi for these ledgers, these streets, this

apartment, this future?

*

In the purse which held—

through seven wars—

the birth certificates

of the dead, my grandmother

hid—from me—

chocolates. The purse opened like a screaming mouth.

*

The purse opened like a screaming mouth.

Its two shiny buckles watched me

through doors, through walls, through jazz.

Who has taught you to be a frightening face, purse?

I kiss your buckles, I swear myself your subject.

*

August. Apples. I have nobody.

August. For me, a ripe apple is a brother.

For me, a four-legged table is a pet.

*

In the temple of Supermarket

I stand

like a candle

in the line to the priestesses who preserve

the knowledge of sausage prices, the virginity

of milk cartons. My future, small

change.

*

Future that runs on the schedule of public buses.

Streets introduced themselves

with the names

of national murderers. I build myself

into a separate room,

where memory,

the illegal migrant in time, cleans up

after imagination.

*

Bus stops:

My future, an empty seat.

*

In a room where memory strips the beds—

linens that hardened like scabs

on the mattresses—I kiss

little apples—my brothers—I kiss the buckles

that watch us through walls,

through years,

through jazz,

chocolates from a purse that held—through seven wars—

birth certificates of the dead!

Hold me, brother-apple.

Bus Stops: Ars Poetica

Valzhyna Mort

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