from Deaf Republic: 13. For My Brother, Tony

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.

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)