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Poetry

Umbilical

By Julia Cimafiejeva
Translated from Belarusian by Valzhyna Mort & Hanif Abdurraqib
This week, Deep Vellum publishes Motherfield, a poetry collection and Belarusian protest diary by Julia Cimafiejeva. In this poem, translated by Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib, the poet explores her separation from family and homeland.

My hair was always
cut short
so nobody knew
that you left me
your thick heavy braids

I was taught to address you with a plural “You”
as if there was more than one person
in your body

otherwise, how could you
have endured
your frightening life
alone

frightened, you hid
in the swamp of ice
under the weight
of wet braids

my name is a mirror
of your name
green seeds of my eyes
grew out of yours

but I
sold
your inheritance
                                for a dry
crumb of freedom
I cut
                long and thick
umbilical hair

I thought I unburdened
myself

but even invisible
the braid grows
with memory

we spent three years together
and then headed out
in two opposite directions
you under the earth
and me onto the earth

Two cold coins
on your eyelids
the green lace of pine paws

Our fields are our sea
Having cut
the umbilical braid
you are inside a wooden boat
sailing
toward the navel of the earth

Far from the snow-choked fields
Far from the dry and embittered grass
Far from hayfields and winter crops
Far from chimneys and crosses


From
Motherfield, copyright 2022 by Julia Cimafiejeva. Translation © 2022 by Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib. Reprinted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

English Belarusian

My hair was always
cut short
so nobody knew
that you left me
your thick heavy braids

I was taught to address you with a plural “You”
as if there was more than one person
in your body

otherwise, how could you
have endured
your frightening life
alone

frightened, you hid
in the swamp of ice
under the weight
of wet braids

my name is a mirror
of your name
green seeds of my eyes
grew out of yours

but I
sold
your inheritance
                                for a dry
crumb of freedom
I cut
                long and thick
umbilical hair

I thought I unburdened
myself

but even invisible
the braid grows
with memory

we spent three years together
and then headed out
in two opposite directions
you under the earth
and me onto the earth

Two cold coins
on your eyelids
the green lace of pine paws

Our fields are our sea
Having cut
the umbilical braid
you are inside a wooden boat
sailing
toward the navel of the earth

Far from the snow-choked fields
Far from the dry and embittered grass
Far from hayfields and winter crops
Far from chimneys and crosses


From
Motherfield, copyright 2022 by Julia Cimafiejeva. Translation © 2022 by Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib. Reprinted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

БАБУЛІ

мяне стрыглі каротка 
як хлопчыка 
ніхто не ведаў 
што свае тоўстыя цяжкія
косы ты адпісала мне 

мяне вучылі казаць табе
«вы»  быццам ты была
не адна ва ўласным целе 

бо як сама ты змагла б 
вынесці тое 
што мне страшна ўявіць 

але страшна было табе 
ў сцюдзёным балоце 
пад цяжарам 
мокрых кос 

маё імя — атожылак 
твайго імя 
зялёныя семкі маіх
вачэй вырасталі з
тваіх 

але я 
твой скарб
прадала 
                       за ссохлы 
драбок свабоды 
абрэзала
                       даўгую і тоўстую
пупавіну валосся 

думала скінула 
цяжар 

але і нябачную 
яе напаўняе 
памяць 

тры гады мы прабавілі
поруч а потым
выправіліся 
ў розныя падарожжы 
ты пад зямлёю 
я па зямлі 

дзве манеты халодныя 
на тваіх павеках бабуля 
карункі яловых лапак 
на саматканых абрусах 
і разарваныя каралі 
твайго голасу 
звіняць россыпам гукаў 
і не збіраюцца ў словы 

зямля — гэта нашае мора 
адцяўшы пупавіну 
касы 
ты ў лодцы драўлянай 
сплываеш 
да самага цэнтру зямлі 

далей ад засланага снегам
дзірвану далей ад сухой і
шорсткай травы далей ад
пожняў і ад азімых

далей ад комінаў і ад крыжоў 

туды дзе цёпла і земляныя
птушкі пяюць танюткімі
галасамі што кожную з нас 
аднойчы падхопіць

лодка і панясе

 

 

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