Ilya Kaminsky: Author's Prayer



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.


Born on April 18 1977, Ilya Kaminsky was raised in Odessa, Ukraine, the former Soviet Union. At the age of four, he lost most of his hearing after a misdiagnosis. Kaminsky is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf and LA Times Book Awards; Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), which received multiple awards including the Dorset Prize and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award; and Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002).


Poem reproduced with the kind permission of Ilya Kaminsky and Tupelo Press.