Ilya Kaminsky
  • Ilya Kaminsky
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  • 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.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and came to the United States in 1993 when his family was granted asylum by the U.S. government. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press), which has been translated into several languages and which won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lannan Foundation Grant, and other honors. With Susan Harris, Kaminsky co-edited The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, an anthology of world poetry, published by Ecco Books in 2010. “A Toast” is taken from Weddings Before the War, published by Fivehundred Places ( in 2012. The poem is part of a book-length sequence of poems, “Deaf Republic,” which Kaminsky is currently completing. He teaches in the MFA program for writers at San Diego State University. The poem is published with permission.

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