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.
When I came home from summer camp in the Poconos in 1958, Knutt showed me a pair of turtles he’d caught in Queen Anne Creek. Silver-dollar-size painted terrapins basked on sunlit mats of watercress that grew against Queen Anne’s banks like barrier reefs beside the deeper, more quickly flowing clear-water channel midstream.