Deafness, An Insurgency, Begins
Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers.
In the name of Petya, we refuse.
At six a.m., when soldiers compliment girls in the alley, the girls slide by,
pointing to their ears. At eight, the bakery door is shut in soldier Ivanoff’s face,
though he’s their best customer. At ten, Momma Galya chalks NO ONE HEARS YOU on
the gates of the soldiers’ barracks.
By eleven a.m., arrests begin.
Our hearing doesn’t weaken, but something silent in us strengthens.
In the ears of the town, snow falls.
In a Time of Peace
Inhabitant of earth for forty something years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open
their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for
his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.
It is a peaceful country.
We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
to pick up the children from school,
to buy shampoo,
Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
We see in his open mouth
of the whole nation.
We watch. Watch
The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a
It is a peaceful country.
And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.
All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little
This is a time of peace.
I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How
bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.
We Lived Happily During the War
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house—
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.
-from Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019) selected by Spring 2021 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Cyrus Cassells.
Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government.
He is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press) and Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press) and co-editor and co-translated many other books, including Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins) and Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Alice James Books).