Author’s Prayer

Ilya Kaminsky


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.


From Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004)

Republished with permission from the poet.