A visit to the hair salon every seven or eight weeks for me is the emotional equivalent of attending a high school reunion, the kind where two popular girls, naturally both cheerleaders, rush you in the restroom line, singsong, “Are you married yet? We didn’t think so,” and whizz off in a confetti of giggles.
Picture a garden, circling it, a field on fire, rich with color, but in that color is lack, and at first, you can assume a grander theme; assume a seduction associated with color or vibrancy, but that’s one of the first things you learn in school: everything is made up of shades.
Not long ago, I wrote an essay reflecting on the many forms delusions can take that included some snippets from my childhood that I’d more or less suppressed for years. When I shared the essay with some other writers, I knew they would tell me that it was great. That I was great. But they didn’t. Nearly all of them wrote in the margin by the passage about my father, “this isn’t enough, go deeper.” I knew it wasn’t enough, hence the suppressing. But their pointing it out meant I had to do something about it or bury it for good.
We danced as if the booze had made / the hips of me the all of me / and no one had ever told me no. / We danced, the cheesy DJ crying out
Ilya Kaminsky’s second poetry collection, Deaf Republic, is an exhilarating and anguished poetic narrative. Sixty poems tell the story of an unspecified event wherein, “SOLDIERS—arrive in Vasenka to ‘protect our freedom,’ speaking a language no one understands.” The chilling poems that begin and end the collection suggest an acceptance of the preposterous—an all too familiar, yet distressing reality in today’s Unites States of America.
I turned to the breath-steamed window, parting a pane with my ungloved hand. There among the ornamental maples of the cemetery, I could just make out the wise men: bulb-lit, clustered, faces in prayerful repose. They appeared the day after Thanksgiving and stood through late January, long after we’d packed the plastic mistletoe in tissue, dragged molting trees to the curb. I never found out where the extension cords led.
I am a child in the lunchroom / which is the sometimes gym / singing my known truths: I love milk
Enough red to end / all desire for sex—reflected / in her stern countenance. / Her stance mocks / any sense of calm.
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Your father is lying on the couch under a quilt with an Apsáalooke print on it. He tells you, I’m sorry I can’t go, this thing is killing me. And you nod your head that folds your high-necked sweater down because it is old and has been worn and washed time and again. You are hot, standing there in your sweater and your jacket and your bright vest with your wool hat and two layers of pants. He tells you, You’ll be fine but stay off the reservation. He tells you he’s expecting big things from you—that you will feed the family over the winter after today.