Other notable works by Ilya Kaminsky.

Scott Malby-

Waves in moonlight

What appears
or is forthcoming
is a pattern of notes.
A magic lantern.
Phantom limbs.

Confessions of a Garden Gnome

My brother is a concrete wolf
living with scorpions and sand
in Arizona. The sun is burning
off his nose. He remains stoic.
He dreams of an Italian Villa.
Our father was a rake. Sister
dreams about the statue who
left her. Our lives are gritty but…
with a touch of quartz.

American letters

The imaginary is real
when the real is intolerable
and so in this, an odd page
out of your past life,
these times demand
we be armed and dangerous
with songs, with poems,
with stories.

Word Riot

In my small spiral notebook
I’ve written this poem about
three burning candles roasting
a dead mule peddling furiously
on his green tricycle to escape
becoming the honored inductee
into an old fashioned Yankee
pot roast and I’d feel sorry but…
I’ve got dibs on his red hat.

Woody Guthrie

whose soul is a blue ox,
or Santa Barbara Song Sparrow
or Labrador Duck
or Passenger Pigeon
races for a threshold to cross.
A crimson estuary.
From the rivers inside of him
the sky pours out.

Fog off the Umpqua, Oregon Highway #138


Its wings can dip
through mountainous valleys
of trees, of gray clouds,
then rising, disappear.
Trees create clouds.
Clouds sustain the trees.
One calls to the other.


Where the paved
road stands
mysteriously far off,
in a charmed tangle of reeds,
a heron nips at fog.
Its voice caustic fire.


There is Reedsport,
a greedy speed trap,
after that, the sign
for Loon Lake,
then Scottsburg, Elkton
and Drain rising
where the river curves
into the wing of a hawk
near the rain dark road
wrapped in tendrils of mist.


A tunnel ahead.


There are tales to tell.
Omens. Auguries.
By the side of the road
a crush of crows.
Fragmentary shadows
and scents. A white elk
in front of a herd of deer.
In forest clearings
a congress of watchers
as Morning quakes
her waking brow opening wide
eyed to shake her hair
spilling across the land
in a conflict of upheavals
for beauty is an argument
of exclusion, an oblique lie,
a spectator of lost causes
that may, or may not have happened.


Can language formulate
what silence hides?
There are so many failures.


Uprooted trees, Alder lie
like a jumble of bones
in the shape of a broken crucifix
wrapped in the scent of pine.
To be and go for-
this never ending flow,
then and now, a rising thought
dark in deepness, in memories,
dreams and reflections.
Are you here to please?
Are you trying not to offend?


For thousands of years
the salmon up the Umpqua
swarmed. Each year
there were less of them.
The salmon rotted.
Time wounds all heels.
What does it mean?
Care now. What one thinks.
Tiananmen Square. Kent State.
Our home town
in the children we were,
idealizing at the altar
of what we couldn’t understand.
Now, butter melts in winter Alps
and our own bodily fevers
must destroy to burn.
We think in Manhattanese
of decapitated heads
up from the mouths of bombs.


Self, do not stress
or lean too far.
Yearning for belief,
it is the air we carve
our names into.
The times are veined
as lichens smothering
the pumice burped
Buddha rock
of enlightenment.


A stranger among us. What does it mean?
For those who know the power of the word,
who seek the key that opens the gate
to what must be faced, a house of light within
and may all shadowy impediments dissolve,
for only they who know what is truly lawful
and not lawful can summon spirits of the air,
the earth and under the earth who present
themselves in myriad shapes, for always,
that stranger at your door may be an angel
or a missing child.

Scott Malby lives in and writes from Coos Bay, Oregon.

Ilya Kaminsky-

We Lived Happily During the War

and when they bombed other people’s houses, we
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 sun
                                           in the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money, in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.

(Previously appeared in Nightsun, 2006)

In Our Time

Each man has a quiet that revolves
around him as he beats his head against the earth. But I am laughing
hard and furious. I pour a glass of pepper vodka
and toast the white wall. I say we were
never silent. We read each other’s lips and said
one word four times. And laughed four times
in loving repetition. We read each other’s lips to uncover
the poverty of laughter. And whoever listens to me: being
there, and not being, lost and found
and lost again: Thank you for the feather on my tongue,
thank you for our argument that ends,
thank you for my deafness, Lord, such fire
from a match you never lit.

(Previously appeared in Image, 2007)

A Toast

To your voice, a mysterious virtue,
to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,
to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,
to hyacinth and bluebell lily,
to the train conductor’s donkey on a rope,
to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.
Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,
until each ungovernable heart admits: “I confused myself
and yet I loved—and what I loved
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,
to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.”

(Previously appeared in Zeek, 2007)

All works reprinted with permission of the author.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former USSR, and arrived in the United States in 1993, when his family received asylum from the American government. He is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), which won the Whiting Writers Award, America Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, Dorset Prize and was named the “Best Book of 2005” by ForeWord magazine.