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!
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
Maestro was published in Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004).
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission of the author