from Deaf Republic: 5. And They Drag The Living Body In The Sunlit Piazza

By Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977 Ilya Kaminsky
I watch loud animal bones in their faces & I can smell the earth.
Our boys want a public killing in a sunlit piazza
They drag a young policeman, a sign in his arms swaying
           “I arrested the girls of Vasenka”
For the boys have no idea how to kill a man.
The bald man in a barbershop whispers, I will kill him for
             a box of oranges.
On a lucid morning they pay a box of oranges.
The bald man arrives with white towels and a soap and a bottle
             of white wine.
He eats raw egg broken into a cup.
And he smells a trickle of lemons in the snow
And he tosses that egg down his throat like a shot of tequila
He is washing his hands, he is putting his tongue where his tooth has been
And our girls spit in the policeman’s nostrils
It is the spittle of our people freezing in the avenues.
The policeman is handsome, he was playing volleyball when the boys caught him.
And a pigeon settles on a stop sign, making it sway.
For our boys sign: start.
Our girls, wet and freckled, cross themselves.
The bald man talks with his fingers to the wall.
His eyes are wet with sweat in the rain.
He jumps on the boy and hugging him stabs him in
             the lung.
The policeman flies above the sidewalk.
The bald man stabs in the air, shovels in the crowd a hole with arms
             and legs.
In the deaf ear there is no such sound as the squeal of a hole. He kisses
the hundred-fifty-pound body of his classmate.
It is the girls who take the earth
And put it in their shirts.

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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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