Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2017 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is from a book-length manuscript, ‘Deaf Republic.’ This is a story of a pregnant woman and her husband living during a time of civil unrest.”
—Ilya Kaminsky


Ilya Kaminsky

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1977, Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019).

Date Published: 2017-01-06

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