from Wild Honey Is a Smell of Freedom
Wild honey has a scent – of freedom
Dust – a scent of sunshine
And a girl’s mouth – of violets.
But gold – nothing.
Water – like mignonette.
And like apple – love.
But we have learned that
blood smells only of blood.
tr. Ilya Kaminsky & Katie Farris
He liked three things on Earth:
white peacocks, evensong,
and old maps of America.
He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with tea,
and women’s hysterics.
… and he had married me.
from Russian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky
from Northern Elegies, # 4
As for memories, they have three parts —
the first is only yesterday
when laughter is still heard, but our cheeks
are wet— this part doesn’t last long. Already
a different sun is over us; not far
is an empty house, walls are frozen in March and in August humid,
where spiders are dust and chairs are dust and doors,
photographs are transformed
into photographs, and people come to this house as to a cemetery,
and, back at home, they wash their hands, breathing,
not breathing. But the clock ticks, April
becomes April, the sky is sky,
cities change to cities, witnesses die,
there is no neighbor to cry with, no face to spit at.
And the our dead slowly walk from us,
to our dead. Their
return to us would be terrifying.
We find we have forgotten
even the highway number that led to the lonely house,
and, choked with shame or anger, jump in the car and drive to it,
but all (as in our sleep) is different:
neighbors, chairs, walls, and no one sees us —
we’re foreigners. We got off on the wrong highway exit
and now we stand here
and we realize that we could not contain
this past in our lungs, our hands,
it has become almost as foreign to us
as a deaf neighbor in the next apartment is foreign.
And yes, we would not recognize
our own dead husbands, mothers, wives, children; and those
whom God separated from us, got on
splendidly without us — all is for the better…
— a version by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky
Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government.
Ilya is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine.Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year 2004 by ForeWord Magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship
Poems from his new manuscript,Deaf Republic, were awardedPoetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.
His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, was published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.
His poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in Holland, Russia, France, Spain. Another translation is forthcoming in China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize.
Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center.
Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.