Two Poems by Valzhyna Mort

with images by Mel Chin from The Funk & Wag from A to Z

Vol11No11
Mel Chin: VOLUME XI No. 11 – No Appetite for Island Architecture

Mellah

From time to time I leave the linden season
for the city of long red walls built not for
execution; to be greeted by bleached grins
of t-shirts on laundry lines, and a toothless
welcome of their wearers. When a shadow

 

falls from these walls, the shadow itself doesn’t know yet if it would become a bird or a stone. Suddenly, it jerks upward, over the rooftop terraces, satellite dishes, date palms and orange trees; higher and higher, carried not only by the mechanisms of its body, but also by the elated realization “A bird! A bird!” while the bird’s shadow hits the ground raising an inept wing of dust in a narrow passage between the clay walls. On tiled stairs a cat opens and closes its one blind eye. And the shadow is instantly kicked and dragged along the market streets, tossed between feet, paws, hooves, watermelon sickles, and wheels, until it is picked up by a shirtless boy and thrown into his neighbor’s head.

 

There is a little girl who comes to play on my street after midnight.
I love to watch her for she wears silver slippers.
Whenever she runs, or kicks a cat, or furiously flattens an empty juice carton,
her dazzling feet flicker
blinding ancient dust.


Stach Rex

My King,

    your hunt has run overtime.

Only your coffin keeps faith in your return.

Its wood still smells of honey and the cheeks

of a hanged man’s wife. Your coffin often

is simply a wooden flower petal,

   my King.

 

Your horse carries its head on the tray of mist

and runs until its teeth start aching.

 

Your people wear its horseshoes as dental plates.

 

Your people knock on wood

                                            instead of saying your name,

they believe not the words,

   but the bruises on herald’s mouth.

They know you don’t carry weapon but kill with blades

of frozen fish –

                      my King, they can smell the rotting.

 

I still remember your hammock of a smile

rocking your big white teeth to your tipsy blabber.

But your kingdom’s a joke, your mother’s nipples –

birthmarks.

Our neighbors no longer bother with robbing us, only

their children

come to empty Queen’s breasts of their petty change.

  My King, our neck of the woods is broken.

 

You have to take your cross up the tallest hill:

but every time you reach it – the cross has melted.

Come back, we’ll cut our hair and lay it soft

from here and all the way to your faithful coffin.

 

Strange fish is casting its eggs before our swine.

But our swine know the price of an egg and the price of a pearl

and prefer to wait

and salivate into their empty barrels.

 

Your cross isn’t made of wood

but white

and slow

your cross

       falls on your shoulders and is –

 

 

snow.


funkandwag_installationview
Mel Chin: The Funk & Wag Installation view at The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, TX

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