Poem by Ilya Kaminsky
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, coatpockets, our nostrils.
Across the street they wash him with firehoses. 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 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.
originally appeared on the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day site.
[When a man dies]
When a man dies,
His portraits change.
Different eyes stare at us, lips
stir in a stranger’s smile.
I noticed this, returning
from a funeral of a poet.
Since then I often checked it,
and my theory has been confirmed.
tr. Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky
Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, Ukraine and currently lives in San Diego. He is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo), and Deaf Republic (Graywolf, 2019) and co-editor Ecco Anthology of International Poetry. With Jean Valentine, he co-translated Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Alice James). This year, his recent poems appear in American Poetry Review, Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares and elsewhere. His work has received Lannan Foundation's Literary Fellowship, Levinson Prize from Poetry Foundation, Whiting Writers Award and the Academy of American Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award.