Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

from Deaf Republic: 1


Such is the story made of stubbornness and a little air,

a story sung by those who danced before the Lord in quiet.

Who whirled and leapt. Giving voice to consonants that rise

with no protection but each other’s ears.

We are on our bellies in this silence, Lord.

Let us wash our faces in the wind and forget the strict shapes of affection.

Let the pregnant woman hold something of clay in her hand.

For the secret of patience is his wife’s patience

Let her man kneel on the roof, clearing his throat,

he who loved roofs, tonight and tonight, making love to her and her forgetting,

a man with a fast heartbeat, a woman dancing with a broom, uneven breath.

Let them borrow the light from the blind.

Let them kiss your forehead, approached from every angle.

What is silence? Something of the sky in us.

There will be evidence, there will be evidence.

Let them speak of air and its necessities. Whatever they will open, will open.

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)