Thank You For My Deafness

Author’s Prayer

By Ilya Kaminsky 
 
If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,
 
I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.
 
If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man
 
who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture.
 
Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking “What year is it?”
I can dance in my sleep and laugh
 
in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,
 
I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak
 
of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say
 
is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.
 

From Deaf Republic: 14

By Ilya Kaminsky 
 
Each man has a quiet that revolves
around him as he beats his head against the earth. But I am laughing
 
hard and furious. I pour a glass of pepper vodka
and toast the gray wall. I say we were
 
never silent. We read each other’s lips and said
one word four times. And laughed four times
 
in loving repetition. We read each other’s lips to uncover
the poverty of laughter. Touch the asphalt with fingers to hear the cool earth of Vasenka
 
Deposit ears into the raindrops on a fisherman’s tobacco hair.
And whoever listens to me: being
 
there, and not being, lost and found
and lost again: Thank you for the feather on my tongue,
 
thank you for our argument that ends,
thank you for my deafness, Lord, such fire
 
from a match you never lit.