Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Dancing in Odessa

9 AM  Bombardment
by Ilya Kaminsky

Running down Vasenka street my clothes in a pillowcase
I was looking for a man who looks exactly like me
so I could give him my Sonya, my name, my clothes.
Running down Vasenka street with my lips moving,
one of those who run from the trolley that bursts like an intestine in the sun,
those who lock the door, lock it with the second key,
and who try to speak, stutter but try to speak.
A wife screams as if she were in labor & she was in labor.

Running by windows where women bought lemon and fish and garlic,
to the right madame Gornik painted icons sold at morning,
to the left lived Veronina, mother of two boys
who stole tomato sandwiches from her boys.
We stuttered and drank and laughed like barefoot peasants
and also drank quietly, damning only the earth and quietly
we made vodka from cherries, vodka from wooden chairs.

It has begun: they climb the trolleys
at the thief market, breaking
all their moments in half. And the army officers
in the clanging trolleys shoot at our neighbors’ faces
and in their ears. And the army officer says: Boys! Girls!
take your partner two steps. Shoot.

It has begun: I saw how the blue canary of my country
picks breadcrumbs from each soldier’s hair
picks breadcrumbs from each soldier’s eyes.
Rain leaves the earth and falls straight up as it should.
To have a country, so important,
to run into walls, into streetlights, into loved ones, as one should.
Watch their legs as they run and fall.
I have seen the blue canary of my country
atch their legs as they run and fall.



My Mother's Tango

I see her windows open in the rain, laundry in the windows—
she rides a wild pony for my birthday,
a white pony on the seventh floor.

“And where will we keep it?” “On the balcony!”
the pony neighing on the balcony for nine weeks.
At the center of my life: my mother dances,

yes here, as in childhood, my mother
asks to describe the stages of my happiness—
she speaks of soups, she is of their telling:

between the regiments of saucers and towels,
she moves so fast—she is motionless,
opening and closing doors.

But what was happiness? A pony on the balcony!
My mother’s past, a cloak she wore on her shoulder.
I draw an axis through the afternoon

to see her, sixty, courting a foreign language—
young, not young—my mother
gallops a pony on the seventh floor.

She becomes a stranger and acts herself, opens
what is shut, shuts what is open.


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Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former USSR and moved to the US in 1993 where his family was given asylum; Ilya Kaminsky can be heard reading 'My Mother's Tango' at http://www.fishousepoems.org/ - an audioarchive of emerging poets; Both these poems were published in Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004).

Odessa, now in the Ukraine, and Russia are now splitting hairs over the dismantling of the Black Sea fleet ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

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