My Mother’s Tango by Ilya Kaminsky


My Mother’s Tango


I see her windows open in the rain, laundry in the windows –

she rides a wild pony for my birthday,

a white pony on the seventh floor.


‘And where will we keep it?’ ‘On the balcony!’

the pony neighing on the balcony for nine weeks.

At the center of my life: my mother dances,


yes here, as in childhood, my mother

asks to describe the stages of my happiness –

she speaks of soups, she is of their telling:


between the regiments of saucers and towels,

she moves so fast – she is motionless,

opening and closing doors.


But what was happiness? A pony on the balcony!

My mother’s past, a cloak she wore on her shoulder.

I draw an axis through the afternoon


to see her, sixty, courting a foreign language –

young, not young– my mother

gallops a pony on the seventh floor.


She becomes a stranger and acts herself, opens

what is shut, shuts what is open.


Ilya Kaminsky


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