from Deaf Republic: 13. For My Brother, Tony

By Ilya Kaminsky b. 1977 Ilya Kaminsky
Love cities, this is what my brother taught me
as he cut soldiers’ hair, then tidied tomatoes
watching Sonya and I dance on a soapy floor—
I open the window, say in a low voice, my brother.
The voice I do not hear when I speak to myself is the clearest voice.
But the sky was all around us once.
We played chess with empty matchboxes,
he wrote love letters to my wife
and ran outside and ran back, yelling to her, “You! Mail has arrived!”
Brother of a waltzing husband, barber of a waltzing wife
(I do not speak, you do not speak, we
do not speak, we do not speak, we do not)
waltzing away from himself
on Vasenka’s warm bricks—
he blessed us with his loneliness, a light winged being.
“Your legs stick out of your trousers too much!”
—Tony, yell at me. I need propping up
in this hairy leg business. A man on earth escapes and runs and yells and stands in silence—silence
which is a soul’s noise.
At the funeral I, embarrassed by resistance fighters
standing up to shake my hand, said
I wear your trousers, in the right hand pocket, a hole.
I wrap your hearing aids in this white t-shirt—
with brief gifts
you go my eye-green brother.
And I, a fool, live.
Six words,
please ease
of song
my tongue.

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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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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