I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter

{She gave me a birdcage for my bird, I think
I might have loved her a basket
full of beautiful poison berries}

Gala Mukomolova’s Without Protection is a heady draught: it is disjointed hallucinatory image, weaving mythology of the fearsome Baba Yaga with vignettes of chaotic frenetic modern life. Mukomolova uses the English language in an unpredictable, splendid way, bending it to her will, her witchlike power. This compact collection is infused with strange color, both violent and tender. It reaches deep into me. Sometimes almost ugly, not always delicate or shrinking by any means, it is a censer of potent fragrances to my overfastidious brain.

Excerpts after the cut.

There’s always a forest I know, little else
I was a child there was a forest
no one remembers

a meadow too, a field of wheat or
grass that stood dry and thin, waving
goodbye to me

My father took my hand
led me through it, I know
but when I close
my eyes the girl is alone in the field

Which berries are poisonous?
The girl knows very little
wants to be brave
says her name
bright like a bird might

calling a girl who lives
across the forest, a girl
with the same name, a friend

My first friend, the forest, creek running
down somewhere, wood swing wide
enough to hold us both

I know
which girl I was which girl was left
back in the old country, which is
only old to me

She gave me a birdcage for my bird, I think
I might have loved her a basket
full of beautiful poison berries

And the girl is not afraid of forests
or love’s darkness; she drags an empty
cage into the forest no one sees

A poison branch, unknown to herself,
stroked and bent, come loose

Love made a clearing in the night where
a girl’s will tamped down the grass
or: an eagerness

to claim and be claimed
I know the bird is dead, I feel it very near
– – – – –
I kept calling you I would say I’m nothing I’m a stone I’m covered in bad milk I saw my father’s blue waterlogged body and I couldn’t touch now untouchable fever

What built the house also dug
the grave. She sings the song
and loves death’s hands, how
they mind their own business