Thank you for the feather on my tongue

I never grow tired of the breathtaking turns of phrase crafted by one of my favorite young poets, Ilya Kaminsky (1977-), who lost most of his hearing at the age of four.

from Deaf Republic: 14

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.

 

Note from author: These poems are from the unfinished manuscript Deaf Republic. This story of a pregnant woman and her husband living during an epidemic of deafness and civil unrest was found beneath the floorboards in a house in Eastern Europe. Several versions of the manuscript exist.

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