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Ilya Kaminsky


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.



She scrubs me until I spit
soapy water.
Pig, she smiles. 

A man should smell better than his country—
such is the silence
of a woman who speaks against silence, knowing 

silence moves us to speak.
She throws my shoes
and glasses in the air, 

I am of deaf people
and I have
no country but a bathtub and an infant and a marriage bed! 

Soaping together
is sacred to us.
Washing each other’s shoulders. 

You can fuck
anyone—but with whom can you sit
in water?


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 buy shampoo,
pick up the children from school,
get basil.


Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.

We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.


We watch. Watch
others watch.


The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy.

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 salt.

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

as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.

-from Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019) selected by Spring 2024 Guest Editor Sheila Black

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).

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