After Bombardment, Sonya

Ilya Kaminsky - 1977-
I scrub and lather him like a salmon
until he spits 
soapy water. "Pig" I smile—

This man smells better than his country
I throw his shoes 
and glasses in the air,

take off his t-shirt and socks, and kneel 
in honor of Sasha Petrov 
who was amputated, in honor of Lesha Vatkii the taken.

I dip a glass in a bath-tub,
drink dirty water.
Soaping together—that 

is sacred to me. Washing mouths together. 
You can fuck 
anyone—but with whom can you sit in water?

And the cuddling up
before sleep!—and back-scratching
in the morning. My back, not yours!

I knew I had caught the fish            
and he knew he had been caught. 
He sings as I dry his chest & penis

"Sonya, I was a glad man with you—"

More by Ilya Kaminsky

A Toast

To your voice, a mysterious virtue, 
to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,  

to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,  
to hyacinth and bluebell lily,  

to the train conductor’s donkey on a rope, 
to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.  

Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,  
until each ungovernable heart admits: “I confused myself   

and yet I loved—and what I loved  
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,  

to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.” 

Town Watches Them Take Alfonso

Now each of us is
a witness stand:

Vasenka watches us watch four soldiers throw Alfonso Barabinski on the sidewalk.
We let them take him, all of us cowards.

What we don’t say
we carry in our suitcases, coat pockets, our nostrils.

Across the street they wash him with fire hoses. First he screams,
then he stops.

So much sunlight—
a t-shirt falls off a clothes line and an old man stops, picks it up, presses it to his face.

Neighbors line up to watch him thrown on a sidewalk like a vaudeville act: Ta Da.
In so much sunlight—

how each of us
is a witness stand:

They take Alfonso
And no one stands up. Our silence stands up for us.
 

Firing Squad

On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips.
Today no one is shooting.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors—
the scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.
Another girl steals a pair of shoes from a sleeping soldier, skewered with light.
As soldier wakes and looks at us looking at them
what do they see?
Tonight they shot fifty women at Lerna St.,
I sit down to write and tell you what I know:
a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,
a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.

Related Poems

A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007

He said, "It is terrible what happens."
           And "So, Mr. Tom,
do not forget me"—an old-fashioned ring, pop tunes,
salsa! salsa! the techno-version of Beethoven's
Fifth, Fairouz singing how love has arrived,
that's what he heard after they dropped the bombs,
his ambulance crawling through smoke while cellphones
going off here here here kept ringing—
how the rubble-buried bodies' still living
relatives kept calling to see who survived.

And when he dug through concrete scree scorched black
           still smoking
from the explosion, squadrons of jets droning overhead,
houses blown to rebar, he saw cellphones'
display lights flashing from incoming calls
and when he flipped the covers, saw phone camera pics,
pics of kids, wives, dads, single, grouped, some wearing
silly party hats, scenes of hilarity
compacted on the screen: it was "not good"
he said, to have to take the phone out of the body

part pocket: Hello—no, no, he's here,
           right here, but not—
and then he'd have to explain...and so he stopped
answering. A soft-spoken young man
studying engineering, only moonlighting
as an ambulance driver, he stood at
the crossroads where Jesus turned water
into wine and where, rising out of rubble, floating down
the cratered street, bride and bridegroom came walking
in the heat and as they came the wedding guests held up
cell cameras clicking when the couple climbed, waving,
           into TRUST TAXI
blazoned on the car's rear windscreen. The muezzin's
nasal wail began to blare all over town, and the pair
drove off to ululating shouts and cries, firecrackers
kicking up dust in the square. The show over, we
got back into our car, our tires crunching
over rubble. As I sat there rubbernecking
at a burned-out tank, he shrugged: "All this—how embarrassing."
And "I hope this is the story you are after."