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clocksby Ilya Kaminsky


Beginning with “the ox-hauled moon” this book opens to pages where thin boys and bakers sit on their stoops, pouring “flour from one hand to the other” and the tower’s clockwork is arrested, and the village “is late for bread.” Where are we? In what geography? We are in a peninsula that looks like “cold wolf hangs from the teat of upper atmosphere” and those who rejoice here, make toasts “To childhood. To death.” And, what year is it? “A year is a modest thing, naked to its ankles.” Again, where are we? In Paradise:


How do you know that Adam and Eve were communists,

he asks. His laughter foams like the sea, cannot

hide from itself. Because they had no clothes to wear,

no sausage to eat, and still they thought it was paradise.


This is the Ukraine of Arguello’s imagination, a place where “a thin boy is a spy, disguised by a magnolia.” When you open this book, “do not ask what the crows have done” because “the beer still tastes like beer. / The girls who serve it / still trust their hips.” This is the sort of a book that investigates deeper into the lives of others, to find poetry there, to find meaning, to find strangeness that is all our own. So, what do we find here? I found how “betrayed by quiet, we do not pray to darkness. We demand.”