The poem "it's so hard to believe" by the Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort can be found here both in the original Belarusian and in an English translation. According to my reading, the poem seems to be comparing two eras, the childhood past and the (happier?) present, but a lot of the references are still unclear to me.

it’s so hard to believe
that once we were even younger
than now

Dogs are mentioned twice in the poem; what does it mean that "the world was a homeless dog", who is the "somebody else" that "trained it [...] against us", and is this the same world-dog referred to in the third stanza which also seems to be taken by "another"? The second stanza begins "and this is why we wake up late at night" - what is why, exactly? What does the passage about mothers, transitioning from "sleeping with men" to "immaculate", mean in the third stanza? Where are the "towns / with white stone houses" of the fourth stanza - this seems to be describing somewhere far distant from the narrator's home, but is it geographical distance or the temporal past-to-present distance? What does it signify that "every house carries a legend of a captain" who is "young and handsome" - is this painting a more hopeful and optimistic present against a grimmer image of the past?

Who is "A.B." that the poem is dedicated to? Does the E.E. Cummings style in the English translation, with no capitals and almost no punctuation, reflect a similar choice in the original Belarusian, or does Belarusian use capitalisation differently from English anyway?

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    There are too many questions here. It will take a dissertation to answer them all. I tried and failed. One important thing is that childhood was much happier than the present. The dog was friendly then. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 6:40
  • @user58697 :-( sorry, I tried to follow the style of interpretation-tagged questions, asking many queries in one post which basically amount to a full analysis of the poem. Even a partial answer would be valuable, though! If you can offer a high-level analysis of the main ideas/themes of the poem, then maybe I can fit the smaller issues into that big picture.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 7:36

1 Answer 1


The childhood was happy. The present is grim.

About the dog.

The translation says it was homeless. The original says "дваровым", living in "двор". It is something like a court, a cul-de-sac - but without traffic; a quad perhaps. All kids were playing there, and all their mothers could see them through windows. The dog did not belong to nobody in particular, but was a part of the community. It played along with kids, and was friendly.

We don't know who that "somebody" was. It definitely did not belong to that двор. It personifies the hostility of the world as it is now. As a side note, “чужы” is a bit stronger than "stranger"; it is almost "an enemy", especially in the canine context.

And yes, the dog is the same.

About mothers.

They are not attractive anymore. Now it is hard to imagine them ever being attractive. Perhaps they never slept with men. Therefore we likely came by means of immaculate conception.

About the white cities.

is this painting a more hopeful and optimistic present against a grimmer image of the past?

Other way around. For a child it is easy to be a part of the legend, and to hope for it to come true. Now the hopes are over, the cities are unreachable, and the legend is just that, a legend.

  • I see better now, thank you. So, if I'm getting your answer correctly, the last four lines of the 1st stanza ("but somebody else took it first ...") are actually more associated with the present than the past, while the last line of the whole poem connects back with the days of being young and handsome, rather than "young and handsome" being just something in stories? I still don't really get what the 2nd stanza is about: maybe the "faces and cities" recognised in the TV are again nostalgic images from the past, but what do the omelettes have to do with anything and why is that courageous?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 9:52

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