To read / 21 June 2024

Fear of heights


From Recycled

A doll

This doll didn’t do anything bad.
Her torn out eye is replaced with a button,
her ear cut, and her mouth
stitched up with a shoemaker’s needle,
her ripped off arm, tossed for the cat to play with, 
a hole made between her legs,
so she can give birth to more of her kind.

With her neck tied round with a pink bow,
she is fussed over, rocked in the cradle,
spoon-fed until the food 
falls down her chin and stains her dress
with something resembling soup or sperm.
Blotches appear on the doll’s body,
her little owner doesn’t know why –
am I not taking a good care of you?!
you ungrateful thing!

At night the doll opens her eye,
unties the knot on her neck,
rips off the other ear and stuffs it 
between her legs
to fill the emptiness. 
Creeping close to those who brought her here
she lies in the bed between them.

Fear of heights

I’m suffering from a desperate fear of falling.

I’m 6 and learning to ride a bicycle –
crashing, bashing my knees,
grazing my hands.

licks my wounds like a dog,
and the pain eases.

I’m 27, and still
don’t know how to ride a bicycle. 
The fear remains.
Where are you now, dad, where?
So many wounds, and who is to heal them?
I know I’m a grown up now. 

Things slip from my fingers.
Some matter, most don’t.
Let them break, these numerous things...

but never people
whose smile I won’t
stop seeing,
whose images 
are spotless.

For too long now 
we’ve been here without you,
my light-filled friend. 
I live only on rooftops –
I’m so afraid 
of open windows on the eleventh floor.

From Ribwort

To Unify 

Do this:
come for a visit,
sit before them,
say, ‘I need to talk
to you’,
and start crying.

Cry for everything
they haven’t been for you,
cry that they
never grew up
and didn’t protect you
from themselves, 
that you cannot lean on them,

that staring out the window
is more amusing 
than being in their space. 

‘I’m so just like you’
sounds sick.

Cry that escaping from them
you throw yourself
into the wrong arms, 
for anxiety wakes up 
before you and sings,
‘Sleep baby,
it’s so scary 
and so unsafe out there,
you won’t make it on your own,
don’t even think you can,
find someone to cling to,
to adhere and get attached, 
let him carry the responsibility
for your happiness, 
you can stay a little girl
for another while.’

Cry steadily, chokingly,
take no breaks,
you don’t want to give them time 
to disagree.
It’s ok they don’t understand,
it’s fine they are confused,
exchanging glances
and sharing guilty silence.

If all you have accomplished
on your own
cannot unite them,
maybe guilt will.

Not what I wanted her to be

sick and fatigued,
I wake longing for someone 
to lie beside me, 
someone who doesn’t want to fuck me,
friends, male and female,
needed and wanted,

I consider my mama – 
if I come to her, lie down by her side
I will make her the happiest 
mama, but I can’t, because 
when I’d get sick as a child
she’d check my temperature
and give me medication
rather than lying next to me,
singing and crying, 
rather than whispering to me, 
‘Forgive me, my little girl, 
that no one taught me affection…’

Through the dark woods

My shadow
and my shadow’s shadow 

walking through the woods,
scared of everything:
sprouted stumps,
weird insects,
talking trees… 

As if this world
revolved around 
me, always,
as if the roots
across the path 
stuck out for me 
to trip against them
and fall and fall 
all the way,
as if moss didn’t grow
on trees so that it couldn’t 
be my orientation sign.

What else would you expect
from a shadow of the shadow
walking through the dark woods


Hanna Komar

Hanna Komar is a Belarusian poet, translator, writer.

Hanna’s poetic work lays bare the experience of being a girl, then a young woman, growing up in a strongly patriarchal authoritarian country.

She has published five poetry collections: Страх вышыні [Fear of Heights], a collection of docu poetry Мы вернемся [We’ll Return] and Вызвалі або бяжы [Set Me Free or Run] in Belarusian, as well as bilingual collections Recycled and Ribwort and a non-fiction book Калі я выйду на волю [When I'm Out of Here]. 

Her work has been translated into Polish, Ukrainian, Swedish, Norwegian, German, Czech, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Danish and Russian. She translates her work into English. 

A member of PEN Belarus and an honorary member of English PEN. Freedom of Speech 2020 Prize laureate from the Norwegian Authors’ Union.

Hanna has an MA in Creative Writing: Writing the City from the University of Westminster. She is taking a PhD at the University of Brighton, exploring how poetry can support Belarusian women to share their experiences of gender based violence and patriarchy.