• kjoannerixon

Deaf Republic


I found DEAF REPUBLIC utterly fascinating. I've been somewhat familiar with Kaminsky for a while--his poems often appear on poetry twitter, and his poem "We Lived Happily during the War" circulated widely (went viral, maybe) during the Trump administration (although to me, truly, it is a Bush administration poem. Or an every American administration poem.). I've admired his way of turning words around the things there are no words for, around our silences, illuminating the hardest parts of human experience.


DEAF REPUBLIC, unlike most poetry collections, has a narrative that spans the book, the story of a town under occupation and the many ways the people of the town resist--or don't resist--the soldiers, the war, the violence. I usually read poetry collections one poem at a time. I have a morning ritual: I make my coffee, I take my dog outside, I drink my coffee and I read a poem. This book, unexpectedly, resisted that practice. It wanted to be read cover to cover. So, eventually, I did.


The book opens with "We Lived Happily during the War" and ends with "In a Time of Peace." If you've read the first, you really ought to read the last. For many poets, war is a metaphor--as is deafness. For Kaminsky both are real. I don't know what in his background gives him this level of insight, but I appreciate it.


One of my favorite poems from the book is "Such Is the Story Made of Stubbornness and a Little Air":


Such is the story made of stubbornness and a little air--

a story signed by those who danced wordless before God.

Who whirled and leapt. Giving voice to consonants that rise

with no protection but each other's ears.

We are on our bellies in this quiet, Lord.


Let us wash our faces in the wind and forget the strict shapes of affection.

Let the pregnant woman hold something of clay in her hand.

She believes in God, yes, but also in the mothers

of her country who take off their shoes

and walk. Their footsteps erase our syntax.

Let her man kneel on the roof, clearing his throat

(for the secret of patience is his wife's patience).

He who loves roofs, tonight and tonight, making love to her and to her forgetting,

let them borrow light from the blind.

There will be evidence, there will be evidence.

While helicopters bomb the streets, whatever they will open, will open.

What is silence? Something of the sky in us.

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