In the Deaf Man's House after Ilya Kaminsky Don't call it a republic, a coalition of hard listeners, lip observers, grazing up against the shorn naked nerve endings that fire into darkness. This is not a country but a punishment, to be perceived as if dust surrounding words and thoughts, a need for affection, for guidance, for questions: who invented television? The running of the grunions? The practice of affixing silent book to arms and foreheads? We'll never know, though our father was full of sky, his speeches to the clouds, the sounds he could remember like sprockets of a movie projector ticking off commandments: What thou shall hear and another thou shall translate, and what the last a pair shall understand to be within the scope of permitted interpretations within the half-heard lyrics and dialogue: obey the nonsense. Obey. Oliver Plunkett, or the G Above High C In the reliquary where the head of the saint is secured in a prism, the penitents kiss the surface, then stand back to see their imprints vanish, like covetous objects from childhood, a mist populated by dolls and matchbook cars, and fabrics clutched in nightmares. As adults they have come searching for a glimpse of the true cross, a sliver that might hover within the pantheon of icons, a piece of death not in vain, but with a purpose that withstands decomposition. The tour guide says this visage was rescued from a pyre so worshipers might partake in its vengeance, and each night, at dinner, the penitents get theirs, in the form of dressing down whatever oppressed class they blame for economic blight and political chaos. But the Israelis: Oh, to see them and their country, they say, because so much progress! At the tour's end, they adjourn to their homes, and consider how only those like themselves might reach the most arduous of notes in devotion, as the saint did in his passion, while sinners and protesters cannot even begin to decipher the voices of their idols or the words from the tablets. Sources and Illness A plague makes splinters of all bodies, recidivists as well as innocents; their mechanics revealed as if a doll's, the one my father promise he'd purchase if I ate my spinach. A door in her back revealed wheels upon wheels, the complications of turning against the status quo ante, the unforgivable act of indecisiveness. My father said, "Eat your spinach or your wheels won't turn," because back then there was always a chance your wheels would seize and reverse, skid until threads were worn drown to stone and sparks would appear where there once was traction. "There are dolls on fire in China right this instant, " my mother would scream, for she had lived through the same economic anxiety. My father's property stretched as far as I needed to see, above the neighbor's swimming pools, the road to school, the dawn that breached through mountains, making a play for where the moon had been. Worlds were random in assigning their wreckage in those days, as the wheels in children supposedly ran on all the same wavelengths: glass in the soles of feet, pox on the skins, blisters and calluses on palms and fingertips from the rings on the playground or holding the pencils too tightly during the testing. My pet tortoise died from eating lettuce on the patch of grass where my father wished he was growing lemons. We thought age and inheritance commanded the epidemics that raced around the cul-de-sac, but it was the roots and stems that hosted pathogens. Living things that were not sentinent and yet they attached themselves to our fears and breaths as if they were suckling infants, possessed of a similar restiveness. If we had known it was these silent materials that threatened, perhaps we would have given them a voice, animation or some other way clear from the specter of breakage; a method of beginning again absent the wounds we thought made us immune and protected us. Bio from 2020: Jane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of a forthcoming poetry collection, 'Medusa's Daughter', from Animal Heart Press; and the forthcoming novel, 'Sisterhood of the Infamous', from New Meridian Arts Press. Her poetry has appeared in the forthcoming in the Loch Raven Review; the Broken Spine; Thorn Literary magazine; and 8Poems. She reads poetry for COUNTERCLOCK literary magazine and reviews books for American Book Review.