from Deaf Republic: 2. 9AM Bombardment

By Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977 Ilya Kaminsky
Running down Vasenka street my clothes in a pillowcase
I was looking for a man who looks exactly like me
so I could give him my Sonya, my name, my clothes.
Running down Vasenka street with my lips moving,
one of those who run from the trolley that bursts like an intestine in the sun,
those who lock the door, lock it with the second key,
and who try to speak, stutter but try to speak.
A wife screams as if she were in labor & she was in labor.

Running by windows where women bought lemon and fish and garlic,
to the right madame Gornik painted icons sold at morning,
to the left lived Veronina, mother of two boys
who stole tomato sandwiches from her boys.
We stuttered and drank and laughed like barefoot peasants
and also drank quietly, damning only the earth and quietly
we made vodka from cherries, vodka from wooden chairs.

It has begun: they climb the trolleys
at the thief market, breaking
all their moments in half. And the army officers
in the clanging trolleys shoot at our neighbors’ faces
and in their ears. And the army officer says: Boys! Girls!
take your partner two steps. Shoot.

It has begun: I saw how the blue canary of my country
picks breadcrumbs from each soldier’s hair
picks breadcrumbs from each soldier’s eyes.
Rain leaves the earth and falls straight up as it should.
To have a country, so important,
to run into walls, into streetlights, into loved ones, as one should.
Watch their legs as they run and fall.
I have seen the blue canary of my country
watch their legs as they run and fall.

NOTES: These poems are from the unfinished manuscript Deaf Republic. This story of a pregnant woman and her husband living during an epidemic of deafness and civil unrest was found beneath the floorboards in a house in Eastern Europe. Several versions of the manuscript exist.—IK

Source: Poetry (May 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2009
 Ilya  Kaminsky


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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.