Old Mosquito

Ilya Kaminsky
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They say so much sky in her chest addicted her.
They claim, with inappropriate laughter, she requested

to be put in a bird house, refusing to believe in the quiet.
Hers was a little mustache—but boys

in the orchestra called her “Old Mosquito.”
And she? when she went to the opera, Mother brought

kittens in her pockets. Only my husband accepted
her without correction—as he fed my toothless

Mother diced tomatoes with a spoon; lost as he was
in his hairy chest—unsure as a boy

and ashamed for those who are ashamed.
Here nurses in blue skirts run in pigeon shit and in snow,

where is our bed in this hospital
only three of us know.

Mother stands feeding a cat from her hand
and bites a hole in the apple—

in it she pours a shot of vodka—
we drink from an apple in turn to our health.

A government musician—just before her death—Mother announces
her decision: I will become a government musician

whispering: “Better one of them should
die than one of us—”

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