Dream review of Valzhyna Mort’s new book/ JOHN BRADLEY

Music for Music for the Dead and Resurrected, Or Is East European Surrealism a Variant of Covid-19? 

There’s a speaker at a wooden lectern

her long, pale fingers tuber roots.

On her sleeve embroidered red thread

reads: Yes, I’m Valzhyna Mort.  What’s it to you?

She’s conducting the score in her book

Music for the Dead and Resurrected.

Her hands move, and the music bends

and our ears sway with the bends.

I sit, along with the audience, draped

in a large white painter’s tarp.  I sit,

along with the audience, inside

a cavern in a large earthen mound.

(My dead, always peeping-tomming,)

says the speaker at the lectern. 

(Always peck-pocketing my small

girl brain.)  She curves her hands

around these notes to let us know

we are contained inside her parenthesis.

We are now sitting in a roving bus,

and our lecturer /conductor / driver /

travel guide calls out at each bus stop

what must be said:  Not books, but

a street opened my mouth

like a doctor’s spatula.

And at another stop: For me, a four-legged

table is a pet.  And: Bus stops:

my future, an empty seat.

It is possible that everything

our guide says is music for an accordion,

about which she asks: Who turned Gregor Samsa

into this black box? 

And: I’m a bone snatched

by the giant spider of an accordion,

stretching its leggy belts

over my back. 

Though I see no accordion.

Only a giant spider. 

In the back of the bus, in the back

of the mound, we applaud

but our hands make the noise

of frozen wet sheets on a frozen clothesline.

The empire fell, says the travel guide,

then the snow fell.  No one coughs.

No one asks why she tells us:

On Madonna’s chest the child

already looked crucified, the nailhead

of the nipple next to his little fist

No one says, Why do swings become guillotines

in the city of iron and irony?

Instead, we applaud Radiation,

an etymology of soil, applaud

the shocking betrayal of apples

and the uncompromised loyalty of cesium.

Now it is time to leave the bus,

to leave the amphitheater in the mound.

We say to the bus driver / conductor /

lecturer / accordion player, Bless you,

Valzhyna Mort, muse with two tongues

where wings should be.

Now, at the lectern, I stand, staring

at my speech, my 92-page speech

that consists of four-words, the same

four words Valzhyna told Ingeborg Bachmann

in Rome: Stop smelling the past.

Here in the land of iron and irony,

Valzhyna, you tell Ingeborg

not to smell the past,

you whose body is filled with millions

of splinters of human bones.

Not bones—not bones—not

human bones, sings the chorus

for the Music for the Dead and Resurrected.

Which sounds like the dead

wandering about the streets

their damp clothes

smelling of iron and irony.

Which sounds like your accordion

Valzhyna, made of tangled human hair

no one will say gathered where.

–John Bradley

Link for the book:


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