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mask is strapped on now. The rubber brace

goes round my

face then neck, they slip it on fast, it’s cold, then it

snaps on. They’ve put

the clamp in my mouth

so I can’t bite off

my own tongue

in amazement. Amazement

comes. Hello it says. Here I am. There is an arm, look, a tiny arm

on the dirt road, yes, it’s dirt after all, the

road, I pick it

up, it fits in my palm,

it’s coated with dust but I make out the lines of

destiny, they are cracked,

the line of fate is

curved,

trying to turn around on the field of the palm,

like a river when there were rivers

and geologic time,

the arm like something that grew up fast, out of dry soil, as if it were soil, or once

soil and breath,

when there was myth, when there was

the fantasy of

creation,

but it’s my arm &, see now, it fits back on my shoulder as

my very arm, something I

own—you saw it

with your very own

eyes they say, did you not, the row of poplars dividing my field from

someone else’s

stirs, & I see how the trees want to run, how they want to be barefoot, how their roots

feel bloody to them though they seem

so clean, so innocent & willing, so planted, to

us, from

here, I detect in them a terrible need for power, for action which might require

judgment, forgiveness,

we are not alone says the minister of the mask,

everyone wants to know

suffering, otherwise what is there

to remember & forget,

how cold the straps feel, they read my mind, things turn warm out of

nowhere, there must be no

monotony says the voice, would you like the dust turned to mud, shall we give

the trees wings, go ahead, use your arm now,

here is another for the other side,

you might not have noticed it too was ripped off

in your prior order,

and indeed there it is, so still in the mud now,

the ring still gleaming on its finger gives it away, I could have stepped on it I

say, I hear cicadas even though it is cold, how

real, how real?, we are returning to some prior place

where we will find everything as it should have been,

the evenings shall be the evenings,

the sun shall be warm but not too warm—there will be gazes in the eyes of creatures

which will be recognizable to us, not fear, not all the time hunger & fear,

there will be time for curiosity,

there will be children, and time, the creatures will not avert their eyes, the rain

will come again and we will hear it fall

on our roofs—now they are making rain fall, they are making a soft wind

cross the field,

they have placed flowers in the crevices, and fruits in the trees,

for the time being,

for just when we are peering

in that direction,

look, the place where the chemical factory was before the world disappeared

is full of wheat, and doors seem to open

as I approach.

The strap tugs. We are still perfecting the desires

they say. Look there’s a feather on the dust I say. A bird

passed over. I can put it on now. Like

this. Look I am wearing it, the feather. I shall plunge it in my

back, I can make it be

huge. Now it is I

who passover. But I am still

here. The path is filled with torn-out

feathers. It is soft. Dust rises. Are they gone. Are the minders

no longer in this

story. Am I alone here. Am I just

here

now. Look it is the scene of

destruction I think. Something was

caught here & it

fought hard here &

lost. Where is the antagonist. Oh is it

me I think, putting my hand down now

in the down, in the piles of down, where it

fought off something like me &

lost its fight.

The VR

Jorie Graham


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translated from the Ukrainian written by
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