Saturday, May 4, 2013

From "Praise" by Ilya Kaminsky


America! I put the word on a page, it is my keyhole.
I watch the streets, the shops, the bicyclist, the oleanders.

I open the windows of an apartment 
and say: I had masters once, they roared above me,

Who are we? Why are we here? 
A lantern they carried still glitters in my sleep,

in this dream: my father breathes
as if lighting a lamp over and over. The memory 

is starting its old engine, it begins to move
and I think the trees are moving. 

On the page’s soiled corners
my teacher walks, composing a voice; 

he rubs each word in his palms:
“hands learn from the soil and broken glass, 

you cannot think a poem,” he says,
“watch the light hardening into words.” 


I was born in the city named after Odysseus
and I praise no nation—

to the rhythm of snow 
an immigrant’s clumsy phrases fall into speech. 

But you asked
for a story with a happy ending. Your loneliness 

played its lyre. I sat
on the floor, watching your lips. 

Love, a one-legged bird
I bought for forty cents as a child, and released, 

is coming back, my soul in reckless feathers.
O the language of birds 

with no word for complaint!—
the balconies, the wind. 

This is how, while darkness
drew my profile with its little finger, 

I have learned to see past as Montale saw it,
the obscurer thoughts of God descending 

among a child’s drum beats,
over you, over me, over the lemon trees. 

Source of the text – Ilya Kaminsky, Dancing in Odessa.  North Adams, MA: Tupelo Press, 2004, pp. 56-57.

Bourguignomicon: It employs syntactic gaps & O sounds; not praise of America but a look through at learning-poetry, love-as-poetry, and learning-to-remember.

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