Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa, which was published by Tupelo Press in 2004 and editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry forthcoming from Harper Collins in 2010. His translation of Polina Barskova's This Lamentable City will also be forthcoming in 2010. He lives and teaches in San Diego.
As Her Husband Sleeps, Sonya Tells a Story
…right in front of the approaching train
a woman and a man fuck in the snow.
Consider, my soul, this texture of stubbornness and quiet:
as she falls and rises
above him in the air,
he wants her and he does not want her—
Consider this approaching train
in which the conductor whistles, rings the bell and shouts
as if refusing to believe in their deafness.
Consider, my soul, the deafness
which seems to have chosen the man
as its earthly vehicle.
The train stops, the conductor whispers
May you win the lottery and spend it all on doctors!
The woman straightens her coat, and laughs—
“One of us had to stop first, sir. I couldn’t.”
from DEAF REPUBLIC
…who kissed Abraham who kissed Majda, who kissed Kareem who kissed Tali
although she was a dozen years his senior (and Kareem’s
bicycle turned at the factory where two kissing women
played the secretaries). Bright patrol of kisses! The epidemic we knew it
was true from the way the newspapers denied it, and we were made afraid. Toni said
she saw her former husbands standing in a line, arranged by penis size. And in June
we made love outside to the great happiness of mosquitoes. And we saw
the policemen march, our crazy Abraham running after them, shooting at the police horses
with a toy water gun! I remember the illness: splashes of water, water everywhere!
And we drank and laughed like barefoot peasants and also drank quietly, damned
only the earth and quietly made vodka from cherries, made vodka from wooden chairs, and
William began to compare the governor’s face to his grandmother’s naked ass. And now
we enter the city that used to be ours
past the theaters and gardens, past wooden staircases and wrought iron gates
where we waved on the doorsteps, waved
when the president rode in a white limousine, followed by a two-night-long procession
which was followed by trials and executions, as we waved on the doorsteps, waved.
Be courageous, we said, but no one is courageous. Where my soul waits for you
grant me God this city of inaudible music.