Ilya Kaminsky

Aunt Rose

In a soldier’s uniform, in wooden shoes, she danced
at either end of day, my Aunt Rose.
Her husband rescued a pregnant woman
from the burning house—he heard laughter,
each day’s own little artillery—in that fire
he burnt his genitals. My Aunt Rose
took other people’s children—she clicked her tongue as they cried
and August pulled curtains evening after evening.
I saw her, chalk between her fingers,
she wrote lessons on an empty blackboard,
her hand moved and the board remained empty.
We lived in a city by the sea but there was
another city at the bottom of the sea
and only local children believed in its existence.
She believed them. She hung her husband’s
picture on a wall in her apartment. Each month
on a different wall. I now see her with that picture, hammer
in her left hand, nail in her mouth.
From her mouth, a smell of wild garlic—
she moves toward me in her pajamas
arguing with me and with herself.
The evenings are my evidence, this evening
in which she dips her hands up to her elbows,
the evening is asleep inside her shoulder—her shoulder
rounded by sleep.

Ilya Kaminsky
Aunt Rose was published in Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004).
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission of the author