Author’s Prayer

By Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977 Ilya Kaminsky
If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man

who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture.

Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking “What year is it?”
I can dance in my sleep and laugh

in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,

I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak

of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say

is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.

Ilya Kaminsky, “Author’s Prayer” from Dancing in Odessa. Copyright © 2004 by Ilya Kaminsky. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.

Source: Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004)

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Poet Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977

Subjects Living, Death, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

 Ilya  Kaminsky

Biography

Poet Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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