Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky

In a Time of Peace

Inhabitant of earth for forty something years
I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open

their phones to watch
a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop
shoots. Into the car window. Shoots.

It is a peaceful country.

We pocket our phones and go.
To the dentist,
pick up the kids from school,
to buy shampoo
and basil.

Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement
for hours.

We see in his open mouth
the nakedness
of the whole nation.

We watch. Watch
others watch.

The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy—

It is a peaceful country.

And it clips our citizens’ bodies
effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.

All of us
still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,
of remembering to make
a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt.

This is a time of peace.

I do not hear gunshots,
but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky
as the avenue spins on its axis.
How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.

SHARA LESSLEY is the author of The Explosive Expert’s Wife (Winner, Sheila Margaret Motton Prize for Best Collection), Two-Headed Nightingale and co-editor ofThe Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, her awards include an NEA fellowship and the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship. Assistant Poetry Editor for Acre Books, she currently lives in Dubai.

Ilya Kaminsky “In a Time of Peace” from Deaf Republic. Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,