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.

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