Ilya Kaminsky
What is memory? what makes a body glow:
an apple orchard in Moldova and the school is bombed

when the schools are bombed, sadness is forbidden
--I write this now and I feel my body's weight:

the screaming girls, 347 voices
in the story of a doctor saving them, his hands

trapped under a wall, his granddaughter dying nearby-
she whispers I don't want to die, I have eaten such apples,

he watches her mouth as a blind man reading lips
and yells: Shut up! I am near the window, I

am asking for help! speaking,
he cannot stop speaking, in the dark:

of Brahms, Chopin he speaks to them to calm them.
A doctor, yes, whatever window

framed his life, outside: tomatoes grew, clouds passed and we
once lived; a doctor with a tattoo of a parrot on his trapped arm,

seeing his granddaughter's cheekbones
no longer her cheekbones, with surgical precision

stitches suffering and grace: two days pass, he shouts

in his window (there is no window) when rescue
approaches, he speaks of Chopin, Chopin.

They cut off his hands, nurses say he is "doing OK"
--in my dream: he stands, feeding bread to pigeons, surrounded

by pigeons, birds on his head, his shoulder,
he shouts You don't understand a thing! he is

breathing himself to sleep, the city sleeps,
there is no such city

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, formerly the Soviet Union, and moved to the US in 1993. He has won the National Russian Essay Contest, the National Shepardi Prize for Poetry and most recently, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine. In 1999-2000, Ilya served as a George Bennett Fellow Writer-In-Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy. His manuscript, “From the Province of Gratitude,” was a finalist for the National Poetry Series in 2000. Current work appears or is forthcoming in Salmagundi, Southwest Review, Tikkun, The American Writing, Literary Review, Mars Hill Review. Kaminsky also writes poetry in Russian. His work in that language was recently chosen for "Bunker Poetico" at the 2001 Venice Biennial.


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