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About this Poem 
“This piece is from a recently completed manuscript, Deaf Republic. In the book, a boy is killed by soldiers breaking up a protest, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—all have gone deaf, and their dissent is coordinated by sign language. ‘Firing Squad’ is dedicated to Garth Greenwell.”
—Ilya Kaminsky
 

Firing Squad

On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips.
Today no one is shooting.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors—
the scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.
Another girl steals a pair of shoes from a sleeping soldier, skewered with light.
As soldier wakes and looks at us looking at them
what do they see?
Tonight they shot fifty women at Lerna St.,
I sit down to write and tell you what I know:
a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,
a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.

Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky

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

by this poet

poem
I scrub and lather him like a salmon
until he spits 
soapy water. "Pig" I smile—

This man smells better than his country
I throw his shoes 
and glasses in the air,

take off his t-shirt and socks, and kneel 
in honor of Sasha Petrov 
who was amputated, in honor of Lesha Vatkii the taken.

I dip a glass in a
poem

They shove Sonya into the army jeep
one morning, one morning, one morning in May, one dime-bright morning—

they shove her
and she zigzags and turns and trips in silence

which is a soul’s noise.
Sonya, who once said, On the day of

poem

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

protested
but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the