In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • From Deaf Republic
  • Ilya Kaminsky (bio)

of weddings before the war

Yes, I bought you a wedding dress big enough for the two of usAnd in the taxi homewe kiss a coin from your mouth to mine.

The landlady might've noticeda drizzle of stains on the sheets—angels could do it more neatly,

but they don't. I can still climb yourunderwear, my assis smaller than yours!

But you are two fingers more beautiful than any other woman—I am not a poet, Sonya,I want to live in your hair.

You jumped on my back,I ran to the shower, and yes,I slipped on the wet floor—

I watch you stand in the showerholding yourbreasts in your hand—

two small explosions. [End Page 37]

before the war, we made a child

I kissed a womanwhose frecklesarouse the neighbors.

She owned two pink nippleswhich she displayedlike medals for bravery.

Her trembling lipsmeant come to bed.Her hair waterfalling in the middle

of the conversation meantcome to bed.I walked in my barbershop of thoughts

Yes I thieved her off to bed on the chairof my hairy armsbut parted lips

meant bite my parted lips—lying under the coolsheets. Sonya!

The things we did. [End Page 38]

as soldiers walk up the stairs

As soldiers clump up the stairs—my wife'spainted fingernail scratches

and scratchesthe skin off her leg, and I feelthe hardness of bone underneath.

It gives me faith. [End Page 39]

while the child sleeps, sonya undresses

She scrubs me until I spitsoapy water."Pig," she smiles—

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

silence is what moves us to speak—She throws my shoesand glasses in the air,

"I am of deaf peopleand I haveno country but a bathtub & an infant & a marriage bed!"

Soaping together—thatis sacred to us.Washing each other's shoulders.

You can fuckanyone—but with whom can you sitin water? [End Page 40]

the voice we cannot hear

They shove Sonya into the policecar—one morning, one morning, one morning in March, one dime-bright morning—

they shove herand she zigzags and turns and trips in silence—

which is a soul's noise—Sonya, who once said, "On the day of my arrest I will be playing piano."

We watch four menshove her—

and we think we see hundreds of old pianos form a bridgefrom Arlemovsk to Tedna Street – and she

waits at each piano—what remains of her is

a puppetthat speaks with its fingers,

what remains of a puppet is this woman, what remainsof her (they took you, Sonya) is the voice we cannot hear— [End Page 41]

pinching the wrist

A young soldier presses his gun to Sonya's head. His hand trembles. He forces Sonya to walk. Around her neck a sign I RESISTED ARREST. The town watches. At each door and window, they stop.

For an apple a peek, they display Sonya, naked, under the troops are fighting for your freedom poster. Snow swirls in her nostrils. Soldiers circle her eyes with a red pencil. The young soldier aims in the red circle, spits. Another aims. Spits. The town watches.

The arrested are made to walk with their arms raised up. As if they are about to leave the earth and are trying out the wind. [End Page 42]

i, this body

I, this body into which the hand of God plunges,empty-chested, stand.

At the funeral—Momma Galya's girls rise up to shake my hand.

I fold our child in a green handkerchief,brief gift.

You left, my doorslamming wife; and I,a fool, live.

But the voice I don't hear when I speak to myself is the clearest voice:when my wife washed my hair, when I kissed

between her toes:in the empty streets of our district, a bit of wind

called for life.Wife taken, child

not three days out of the womb...


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pp. 37-44
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