Nocturne for a Moving Train

The trees I’ve glimpsed from the window

of a night train were

the saddest trees.


They seemed about to speak,


             vanished like soldiers.


The hostesses handed out starched linens for sleep.

Passengers bent over small icons

of sandwiches.


In a tall glass, a spoon mixed sugar into coffee

banging its silver face against the facets.


The window reflected back a figure

struggling with white sheets.


The posts with names of towns promised

a possibility of words

for what flew by.


In lit-up windows people seemed to move

as if performing surgery on tables.


Chestnut parks sighed the sighs of creatures

capable of speech.


Radiation, an etymology of soil


directed into the future, prepared

a thesis on the new origins of old roots,

on secret, disfiguring missions of misspellings,

on the shocking betrayal of apples,

on the uncompromised loyalty of cesium.


My childish voice, my hands, my feet—all my things that live

on the edges of me—

shhh now, the chestnut parks are about to speak.


But now they’ve vanished.


I was extracted from my apartment block,

chained to the earth with iron playgrounds,

where iron swings rose like oil wells,


I was extracted before I could dig a language

out of air

with my childish feet.


I was extracted by beaks—storks, cranes.


See the conductor punching out eyes

of sleeping passengers.

What is it about my face

that turns it into a document,

into a ticket stretched out by a neck?


Why does unfolding this starched bedding

feel like

               skinning someone invisible?

Why can’t the spoons, head-down in glasses, stop screaming?


Shhh . . .


The chestnuts are about to speak.

Bibliographical info

Valzhyna Mort, "Nocturne for a Moving Train" from Music for the Dead and Resurrected. Copyright © 2020 by Valzhyna Mort. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Music for the Dead and Resurrected (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020)

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