by Ilya Kaminsky
If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,
I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.
If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man
who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture.
Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking "What year is it?"
I can dance in my sleep and laugh
in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,
I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak
of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say
is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.
About this Poem:
Kaminsky suggests that we can pay our respects to the dead by praising life, by finding joy in something as ordinary as crossing a street. For Kaminsky's speaker, writing and living become rituals that redeem those who have passed before us.
About the Poet:
Ilya Kaminsky is a native of Odessa, Ukraine. A former immigration lawyer, he now teaches writing at San Diego State University. Kaminsky lost most of his hearing at age four.