Rash of the harbor lights in the mountain region.
Night, he says, is the dark humor of the day—
first you are scared
but by the sunrise
I’ll get you laughing.

My head, thrown back in laughter, has bought me more
than money thrown forward, and men
pressed me down and worked like a Chinese seamstress.
But none could slap my face as hard as the sea slaps
its adopted child and then steps back, all tears.

This island spit out by the sun over the world’s shoulder,
a fence holds the bougainvillea laughter behind its teeth,
a metal gate guards the doze of heat-stricken watchdogs,
a road comes up to my face and stands like a mirror
showing everything that has led me to it: a bed
soft like bruised fruit, a whole lime garden bruised
by the afternoon shade, and his book’s hard spine
breaking with the day.

A body strips down all the way to forgiveness,
and grants itself before there’s even a reason, unless
it wants to tell the other: I forgive your juices
for not filling these hard fruits; your skin
for not cracking and rotting over the ants’ heads;
I forgive your throat for not birthing the dog’s cough;
your hand, right now rising, falling, and leaving trace
unlike what it praises; your shadow for never becoming a stain
to mark this road, this bed, but mostly this sea.

Bricks of gray moonlight fall weightlessly
the wooden

shades building a new wall above the sink.
Here he lies on his stomach,
the gap between his ass and his thighs
forms a perfect black diamond.

Horizon blistered by the setting sun heals
a hardly visible scar.


valzhyna mort 552_ISLAND.JPGValzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus, and moved to the United States in 2005. She is the author of Factory of Tears and the forthcoming Collected Body (both from Copper Canyon Press). In 2010, she received the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine and the Lannan Literary Fellowship.

Author photo courtesy of Gabrie Morgan

Homepage photograph via Flickr by The Daily Ornellas

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