Ilya Kaminsky

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.



“My Mother’s Tango” is from Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004).