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.
Link for the book: