In Yaichka, they say a child draws her first breath through her ears, her second through her eyes, and her third through her mouth. This is why it sometimes takes a moment for a baby to cry The first breath is for the mother, the second breath is for God, and the third breath is for the father. The breath through the mouth brings the most pleasure, and we forget immediately that we ever knew how to breathe any other way. When a child in Yaichka cries, his mother will pick him up and hoist him on her hip and laugh and say, Look at my little bearlet, breathing through his eyes again! And the child stops his crying because he likes to be called a bearlet.
Look, if that doesn’t get your blood up to do some reading, I can’t help you. I realize the right thing to do is furnish clever enumerations of Valente’s juxtapositions of the fantastic and the geopolitical, talk about the language and the imagery, then say how it’s really all about the characters. So that’s done. But be reasonable, at least—the muse can write a blank check for all the language and imagery and high-wire conceptual combination in the world and still not budget for that little twist of craft. But that’s where the magic happens, comrades.
“Yaichka” is from the Russian яйца, “egg.” If you don’t know why this is important, read the book.