Dancing in Odessa (Kaminsky)

Having never heard of him before, I have now read two collections recently that allude to Osip Mandelstam. If these two collections are any indications, he must be a pretty good influence. Kaminsky seems to more painting than writing – but not a still life – a world in motion. His lines are quietly effective. In “Musica Humana,” someone is “weaving days into knots.” The poem also features “a romantic boy with a barefoot heart.”

One of my favorites —

A Toast

If you will it, it is no dream.
— Theodore Herzl

October: grapes hung like the fists of a girl
gassed in her prayer. Memory,
I whisper, stay awake.

In my veins
long syllables tighten their ropes, rains come
right out of the eighteenth century
Yiddish or a darker language in which imagination
is the only word.

Imagination! a young girl dancing polka,
unafraid, betrayed by the Lord’s death
(or his hiding under the bed when the Messiah
was postponed).

In my country, evenings bring the rain water, turning
poplars bronze in a light that sparkles on these pages
where I, my fathers,
unable to describe your dreams, drink
my silence from a cup.

The prose poem, “Joseph Brodsky,” is sharp as is its companion, “An Elegy for Joseph Brodsky.” In the first “Marina Tsvetaeva,” Kaminsky writes, “[A]ll  I want is a human window/ in a house whose roof is my life.” In this collection, Kaminsky has provided his own much needed window.

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