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

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.

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)