from Deaf Republic: 12. Sonya Speaks Slowly, As If Unaffected

By Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977 Ilya Kaminsky
I remember Tony arguing in front of his mirrors, the soldiers
were painting the trees, Tony sat

on the floor of white hair, and all the trees were
painted white. And he spat at Alfonso’s irony, but when

they played accordion, the fourth among us had no name.
“I am not sleeping with Tony! He simply cuts my hair!”

—but our dinner is a tiny blue fish and, with my lean brother-in-law,
we are playing cards. I pull spade after spade after spade but

this skinny sparrow, this barber no simple soul, takes me
with his fingers by my nose and kisses me, quickly, on the lips!

When Tony washed my hair, when Alfonso
kissed between my toes, when my lips

trembled, when the fourth one laughed, when Tony slept, slept in the earth,
on the empty streets of our district, a bit of wind

called for the life which no one knew, a life
which daily took all of us: my neighbor

taken, his wife taken, their apartment quiet.
I say this slowly, as if unaffected:

their apartment quiet, on the floor, dirty water from their boots.

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

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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