That Map of Bone and Opened Valves
That was the summer we damned only the earth.
That was the summer strange helicopters circled.
We examined each other’s ears, we spoke with our hands in the air--
It is the air. Something in the air wants us too much.
On the second day
helicopters circle and our legs run
in the fever-milk of their own separate silences.
A sound we do not hear lifts the birds off the water where a woman
takes iron and fire in her mouth.
Her husband is trying to make
sense of her face, that map of bone and opened valves.
The earth is still.
The tower guards eat sandwiches.
On the third day
the soldiers examine ears
of bartenders, of accountants, of soldiers, you wouldn’t know
the wicked things silence does to soldiers.
They tear Pasha’s wife from her bed like a door off a bus.
On the sixth day, we damn only the earth.
My soul runs on two naked feet to hear Vasenka.
I no longer have words to complain
my God and I see nothing in the sky and stare up and
clearly I do not know why I am alive.
And we enter the city that used to be ours
past the theaters and gardens past wooden staircases and wrought
in the morning that puts ringing in our ears.
Be courageous, we say
but no one is courageous
As a sound we do not hear lifts the birds off the water.
Previously published in Kenyon Review.
Ilya Kaminsky lives in San Diego. This poem is from Deaf Republic which will be forthcoming from Graywolf in 2019.