To Live

by Ilya Kaminsky


To live, as the great book commands,
is to love. Such love is not enough!—

the heart needs a little foolishness!
So I fold the newspaper, make a hat.

I pretend to Sonya that I am the greatest poet
and she pretends to believe it—

my Sonya, her stories and her beautiful legs:
her stories and legs that open other stories!

And I say: a human being
understands the universe: its music

makes us foolish. I see my future: a yellow raincoat,
a sandwich, a piece of tomato between my teeth,

I raise my infant daughter to the sky—
I am singing as she pisses

(Old fool, my wife laughs)
on my forehead and my shoulders!



Ilya Kaminsky is the author of “Dancing In Odessa.” His poems have been translated into numerous langauges and his books have been published in many countries including Turkey, Holland, Russia, France, Mexico, Macedonia, Romania, Spain and China.

Ilya, who was born in Odessa, in the Ukraine, in what was the former Soviet Union, moved to the United States in 1993 when his family was granted asylum by the U.S. government. He has won the Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship, and poems from his manuscript-in-progress, “Deaf Republic,” were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize, as well as the Pushcart Prize.

Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center. He curently works as the Court Appointed Special Advocate for Orphaned Children in Southern California. Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.